Orion Spacecraft Propulsion System Test Complete

NASA has announced that an important test for the propulsion system of the Orion spacecraft has been completed. The test was to make sure the spacecraft is ready to carry crew safely on an alternate mission profile if an unexpected problem should arise. The latest test that the spacecraft systems have passed was a continuous 12-minute firing of the propulsion system.

NASA says that in its goal of getting humans back on the moon, inserting Orion into lunar orbit requires extreme precision in course-plotting and in firing the engines. With each test mission, such as this one, NASA says that it is getting closer to reaching its mission of taking people back to the moon and beyond.

The latest test was conducted on August 5 using a qualification version of the propulsion system. The experiment was conducted at the NASA White Sands Test Facility near Las Cruces, New Mexico. The test was completely ground-based and simulated one of the most taxing scenarios the spacecraft's engines could encounter after launch.

NASA says that the 12-minute duration test was meant to simulate an abort-to-orbit scenario. This could happen if the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) was unable to get the spacecraft on its path to the moon. The Orion spacecraft would separate early from the ICPS, and the service module's engines would fire to push the spacecraft into a temporary orbit.

NASA's test was successful, and all eight of the auxiliary engines fired successfully. During the test, each of the reaction control thrusters was fired periodically to simulate altitude control and overall production system capacity. This test was the most demanding so far for the pressurization system, including the propellant tanks, valves, and other components.