Cracks have been found in the first Orion capsule intended to fly in space.


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Government space marches on! Cracks have been found in the first Orion capsule intended to fly in space.

The cracks were discovered during a proof pressure test the week of Nov. 5. Proof testing, in which a pressure vessel is subject to stresses greater than those it is expected to encounter during routine use, is one of the many preflight tests NASA is performing on Orion to certify the craft is safe for astronauts, agency spokeswoman Rachel Kraft said. “The cracks are in three adjacent, radial ribs of this integrally machined, aluminum bulkhead,” Kraft wrote in an email. “This hardware will be repaired and will not need to be remanufactured.”

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6 comments

  • wodun

    Where is joe?

  • wade

    this thing will never fly. its a big caper designed to funnel money into what they Really want or have. and, at best, this thing is nearly 50 years out of date. what a shameful Scam !

  • Pzatchok

    Why did they drop forge and CNC mill out HUGE portions of the frame?

    They could have just as easily welded up the very same thing for FAR less cost and I bet the same weight and size.

    They found cracks in the frame already and they are now welding them back together. Which is harder to do on DF, or hammer forged, CNC milled pieces. Metal densities are different from the normally welded, rolled or extruded material.

    Seriously this whole program is just engineers playing games trying to get their own pet projects into the machine for no real reason than to say they did.
    Just like they have done for the last fifty years.
    They need to realize NASA is no longer their own research facility with unlimited funds.

  • Could you define some terms for me so I can better understand what you are saying? For example, what does CNC stand for? Similarly, what is DF? And can you describe both? Also, what is “drop forge”?

    I suspect I understand you, and I also believe that if I do you are completely correct, that Lockheed choose a much more expensive way to build Orion then necessary. However, I just want to understand a bit better what you are talking about. I am not an engineer, but I do make my living translating the jargon of scientists and engineers into plain English.

  • Pzatchok

    CNC= Computer numeric Control Basically a computer is running the milling machine following a predetermined design. They make small ones for small shops and even home size models.

    Drop forging and hammer forging are the same thing. You take hot metal and smash it into the die to give it a shape. But in one process hammer forging is used to just smash the hot metal into a smaller area or shape. Driving out contaminates and any air pockets thus forcing the density of the metal higher.
    The metal parts of JIM suits ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JIM_suit ) are hammer forged as one huge piece and then CNC milled out of it.

    Running the metal through rollers drawing it out into a longer shape does almost the same thing in raising its density. Except rolling mills are WAY cheaper. You get flat stock this way. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolling_%28metalworking%29

    Extruding metals like aluminum even cheaper. Just pushing hot metal through a shaped die to give it a complex shape. Like running boards for trucks and vans or window frames.

    They could have CNC milled out a few of the smaller real complex shapes(like rounded corners and window or door frames.) and used cheaper processes to make the rest less complex areas. Welding the whole thing together in the end.

    We don’t machine out of one large piece of metal fighter plane frames. Why would this thing need to be? Is it taking higher G’s or more damage?

    Every metal working company out there gives away catalogs of premade shapes they can put out inside of 24 hours.. All they need do is open up the book from an aluminum company and find the shape They can order and size and shape they need. They can also order the exact density, hardness and rigidity.

    They had a range of specifications that would have been acceptable or workable and they took the top of the list because cost and time mean nothing to them. Its not their money.

  • Thank you for the information. It confirms what I thought, that Lockheed Martin chose to build Orion the most expensive way possible because, as you say, “It’s not their money.”

    While a manned capsule hitting the atmosphere at 25,000 mph after returning from the Moon probably experiences higher G’s and greater stress than a jet fighter, I suspect they easily could have welded much of the capsule to save money. For example, take a close look at the Gemini capsule flown in the mid-1960s. It appears they even used rivets to assemble the thing’s outside shell!

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