Because a repair would delay the first SLS launch for months if not a year, NASA has decided to fly Orion on that November ’21 mission with failed electronics power unit.
In a Dec. 17 statement, NASA said it had decided to “use as is” one of eight power and data units (PDU) on the Orion spacecraft, which provide communications between the spacecraft’s computers and other components. One of two redundant channels in one of two communications cards in that PDU is not working.
…NASA, in its statement about deciding not to replace the PDU, did not go into details about the repair options, but said that the risks of damaging the spacecraft during the PDU repair outweighed any loss of data should the unit completely malfunction.
Engineers, the agency stated, “determined that due to the limited accessibility to this particular box, the degree of intrusiveness to the overall spacecraft systems, and other factors, the risk of collateral damage outweighed the risk associated with the loss of one leg of redundancy in a highly redundant system.”
“NASA has confidence in the health of the overall power and data system, which has been through thousands of hours of powered operations and testing,” the agency added, noting that the PDU in question was still “fully functional.”
Let’s then assess Orion. The contract was issued to Lockheed Martin in 2006. In the fourteen years since Congress has spent about $17 billion on this manned capsule. In that time it has flown once, during a test flight that was intended to test its heat shield, even though when that flight happened NASA had already decided that it was not going to use the heat shield design it was testing.
Orion’s second flight in November ’21 will be unmanned, but it will be flying with this failed unit. The next time it is supposed to fly will be in ’24, when NASA is hoping to send astronauts on a lunar landing missions. By that time NASA will have spent about $20 billion on Orion, and gotten two test capsules (both unrepresentative of the flight model) plus one manned mission.
Would you fly on this capsule under these circumstances? I wouldn’t, especially considering the non-track record of its rocket, SLS.
As the taxpayer, do you think you’ve gotten your money’s worth from this capsule? I don’t. I think it has been an ungodly waste of money, and a demonstration of the incapability of NASA and the big space contractors Boeing and Lockheed Martin of getting anything accomplished. Depend on them, and you will never go anywhere.
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