CLEVELAND – How loud is 166 decibels? It’s about as loud as the thrust of 20 jet engines or a rock concert with 36,000 speakers. It’s also the level of noise some spacecraft experience when launched and is now the highest level of noise that can be produced in the Reverberant Acoustic Test Facility (RATF) located at NASA Glenn Research Center’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio.
For the first time in the RATF, spaceflight components were subjected to these high noise levels to determine if they would withstand acoustic reverberations during launch or launch aborts.
Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) completed testing on a 5.2-meter fairing for its Falcon 9 rocket in the RATF and Plum Brook's Space Power Facility (SPF) vacuum chamber this summer. The tests confirmed the fairing could withstand the harsh conditions associated with space travel.
According to Glenn’s director, Jim Free, “The SpaceX fairing tests prove the Space Power Facility can enable strong commercial space transportation capabilities and other missions. The facility is now ready to provide vibroacoustic test capabilities and one-stop space environmental testing for space vehicles.”
Glenn’s Plum Brook Station is unrivaled in its space environment simulation test capabilities. The SPF combines the world’s largest vacuum chamber and the world’s most powerful low-frequency mechanical vibration test stand. With the recently-added acoustic test chamber, SPF has become the world’s most powerful simulator of noise levels experienced during launch.
“While we’re focused on rapid innovation, SpaceX’s first priority is always to get our customers’ payloads safely to orbit,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and chief designer. “Testing at Plum Brook enabled simulation of some unique flight conditions, furthering what we are able to do on the ground to ensure flight success.”
With collaborations like Glenn’s work with SpaceX to test its fairing, NASA is growing America’s commercial space industry and, at the same time, taking steps to explore farther into our solar system and beyond.
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