Lockheed Martin recently tested a critical event on NASA’s Orion spaceship – the jettison of the forward bay cover on the program’s structural test article.
As an Orion spaceship returns to Earth, it will travel through the atmosphere at about 24,700 mph. A series of parachutes will deploy to stabilize and slow the crew module before splashdown in the Pacific Ocean — but before deployment can begin, the forward bay cover protecting the parachutes needs to be jettisoned away from the spacecraft.
The jettison mechanism is quick and powerful – generating thrust equal to 26,250 lbs. of force, launching the 1000-lb. forward bay cover away from the capsule. During separation, the cover accelerates to a speed of almost 30 mph in just over half a second.
The test was performed on the Orion structural test article at the company’s Littleton, Colorado facility. The successful test not only validated the jettison mechanisms but also validated the structural stress models used in designing the crew module.