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I’m so glad: The repairs to the cracks in the first Orion capsule have withstood static stress tests.
In addition to the various loads it sustained, the Orion crew module also was pressurized to simulate the effect of the vacuum in space. This simulation allowed engineers to confirm it would hold its pressurization in a vacuum and verify repairs made to superficial cracks in the vehicle’s rear bulkhead caused by previous pressure testing in November.
The November test revealed insufficient margin in an area of the bulkhead that was unable to withstand the stress of pressurization. Armed with data from that test, engineers were able to reinforce the design to ensure structural integrity and validate the fix during this week’s test. [emphasis mine]
I love how this NASA press release describes the cracking of the capsule bulkhead during the November testing, indicated in bold. “Insufficient margin”, eh?
Normally I am very forgiving when things fail during engineering tests, but for the bulkhead of this capsule to crack during these tests was actually pretty shameful, considering the decades of engineering work previously done in the building of space capsules and submarines. Things can certainly go wrong when you build something new, but I don’t see anything particularly revolutionary about Orion’s design. Lots of things might fail, but making sure the bulkhead could withstand the normal and well known stresses of spaceflight should not have been one of those things. The bulkhead failure suggests to me some sloppy engineering work took place in Orion’s initial design.