Machine Design
A mockup of NASArsquos Orion space capsule was drop tested from a variety of heights speeds and angles to determine the estimated vertical and horizontal velocities it will be going when it parachutes into the ocean Data recorders monitored a wide variety of parameters to ensure the spacecraft would withstand the stresses of impact with the water

A mockup of NASA’s Orion space capsule was drop tested from a variety of heights, speeds, and angles to determine the estimated vertical and horizontal velocities it will be going when it parachutes into the ocean. Data recorders monitored a wide variety of parameters to ensure the spacecraft would withstand the stresses of impact with the water.

Orion Mockup Wired for Data During Splashdown Tests

NASA’s first test flight and splashdown of an Orion space capsule went well, thanks to three years of testing and simulated splashdowns of a realistic mockup in the agency’s Hydro Impact Basin at its Langley Research Center. To collect information from those preflight tests, NASA wired up an 18,000-lb Orion mockup with 320 strain gauges, pressure sensors, and accelerometers to capture data on the capsule’s responses to landing in water at up to 20 mph.

The data was recorded on 40 TDAS Pro Sims from Diversified Technical Systems, Seal Beach, Calif. Each of these modules collected data from eight sensors or channels, storing up to 100 sec at 10,000 samples per sec per channel on non-volatile flash memory. But the focus was on getting data from the 20-sec. splashdowns.

TDAS Pro Sim recorders from DTS were mounted onboard the Orion capsule to record data from a variety of sensors while the capsule was dropped in a pool of water. Each module in these racks store up to 100 seconds of data at 10,000 samples per second per channel. Newer versions of the recorder, the Slice Pro, stores 400 times that amount; up to 11.5 hr at 10,000 samples/sec per channel. The modules on the Orion were powered by a DTS Smart Battery.

The data recorders are small, measuring 5.4 × 4.8 × 1.4 inches and weighing 1.7 lb. The rugged devices had shock ratings up to 100 gs. All this let them be mounted close to the sensors they monitored without significantly changing the dynamics of the test. The recorders got the 12 to 15 v of power they needed from Smart Battery packs from DTS, but each unit also had internal back-up batteries, just in case.

After each test, which took up to eight hours of prep time, data was downloaded via USB to a computer. A computer was also used to set up each recorder’s sample rate, trigger, and record time.

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