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NASA - Orion Boilerplate Crew Module Completes Mass Properties Testing at NASA Dryden
October 31, 2008

Orion crew module in Dryden's Flight Loads Lab The boilerplate Orion crew module that will be used for the Orion Launch Abort System Pad Abort-1 flight test is tilted on jacks during weight and balance testing at NASA Dryden. (NASA photo / Tony Landis) Engineers at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center recently completed mass properties tests on the Orion test crew module in preparation for the Launch Abort System flight tests scheduled to begin at White Sands, New Mexico, next spring. The Orion Abort Flight Tests are a critical link in the development of our nation's next crew-piloted spacecraft.

The Orion's Launch Abort System provides emergency crew escape functions during its launch phase. The Abort Flight Tests are designed to reduce development risk of Launch Abort System design, validate the performance and functionality of the entire system, and obtain high fidelity flight test data to support human rating of the Launch Abort System for the Orion – ARES-1 space launch system.

"The Abort Flight Test is an important part of proving the safety systems associated with Orion," said Gary Martin, project manager for the Orion Abort Flight Test project at NASA Dryden. "It provides important data that is used to validate the safety predictions for the overall Orion spacecraft. We acquire data during two pad aborts and two ascent aborts – or two in-flight aborts – that will provide important verifications of critical performance design parameters for the Launch Abort System and for the crew module itself."

Orion crew module in Dryden's Flight Loads Lab The boilerplate Orion crew module that will be used for the Orion Launch Abort System Flight Test Pad Abort-1 test undergoes moment-of-inertia testing at NASA Dryden's Flight Loads Lab. (NASA photo / Tony Landis) The mass properties of the boilerplate Orion crew module were estimated from computer-aided design models and confirmed by direct measurement during a month-long series of tests at NASA Dryden that concluded Wednesday, Oct. 29.

"The Orion Abort Flight Test Pad Abort-1 crew module is here for mass properties testing," Martin added. "We're measuring the weight, the center of gravity, and the moments of inertia so that we can accurately predict how it will behave when we launch it at White Sands next spring."

The primary purpose of the Pad Abort -1 crew module is to simulate the physical characteristics of the flight design Orion crew module which assures the proper conditions for the LAS. The mass properties measurements confirmed the PA-1 crew module simulator meets the conditions and reliably simulates the flight system mass properties required for this test.

The weight and balance tests at NASA Dryden determined how the test module's weight is distributed by taking measurements at three points with the module tilted at varying angles. The related moment-of-inertia tests in Dryden's Flight Loads Laboratory gauged the module's resistance to rotation by forcing small rotations and precisely measuring the resulting motion.

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