What are NASA heat shields made of
Orion receives upper heat shield
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The US aerospace agency NASA is making further progress in the work on the maiden flight EFT-1 (Exploration Flight Test 1) of its new spacecraft Orion. This is how the upper heat shield was mounted on the capsule used for this flight.
Orion's lower heat shield during assembly.
The upper heat shield is mounted on the Orion.
But the heat during reentry is not the only danger Orion must be protected from by the upper heat shield. There are also a large number of micrometeorites or space junk in space. Although these parts are extremely small, they are not without danger. Due to their high speed, they can still cause not inconsiderable damage in the event of an impact. If the upper heat shield is hit and damaged by such a part, there is a risk that a hole will be created in the upper heat shield. This allows the hot plasma that surrounds Orion during re-entry to “crawl” through the hole into the interior of the spaceship. The damage it will do there could even result in the loss of the crew.
After such an incident occurred on Space Shuttle flight STS-107 in 2003, even if it was not caused by micrometeorites, various techniques were developed that make it possible to repair such a damaged heat shield. At the time of the shuttle, it was possible to determine exactly what kind of damage the heat shield needed to be repaired. However, because of the completely different form, these data cannot be transferred to Orion. Therefore, new computer models had to be developed for the re-entry of Orion.
The two holes drilled in two tiles on the Orion capsule
Orion during EFT-1 - illustration
During the flight, the radiation protection, the heat shield, the avionics, the parachutes and the throwing off of fairings and the rescue system are to be tested. The next test flight no later than November 2018, called EM-1 for Exploration Mission 1, will be the maiden flight of the new Space Launch System (SLS) and an unmanned MPCV equipped with the new ATV-based European service module supposed to lead to the moon.
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