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[i]The cracks were discovered during a proof pressure test the week of Nov. 5. Proof testing, in which a pressure vessel is subject to stresses greater than those it is expected to encounter during routine use, is one of the many preflight tests NASA is performing on Orion to certify the craft is safe for astronauts, agency spokeswoman Rachel Kraft said.
"The cracks are in three adjacent, radial ribs of this integrally machined, aluminum bulkhead," Kraft wrote in an email. "This hardware will be repaired and will not need to be remanufactured."
It took Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver about a year to make the vehicle that was damaged. Kraft did not say how long it would take to repair the capsule, built as part of a program intended to take astronauts to destinations beyond low Earth orbit.
Cracking occurred when the pressure inside the Orion module reached about 149 kilopascals, or 21.6 pounds per square inch, Kraft said. To pass the proof test, the Orion pressure module has to withstand about 164 kilopascals, which is roughly 1.5 times the maximum stress the capsule is expected to encounter during missions, she said. Increasing the pressure inside the craft in an ambient environment of 1 atmosphere -- air pressure at sea level -- effectively simulates the conditions Orion would encounter in a vacuum.[/i]
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