Engineers test spacecraft that could go to Mars

Posted at 4:50 PM, Mar 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-02 18:50:05-05

Space tests to get astronauts to Mars are happening right here in our own backyard. 

Engineers at Lockheed Martin are using sound to test the Orion spacecraft's durability. The spacecraft is intended to be used so humans can explore Mars in the near future. 

Researchers have filled a room with more than 1,500 speakers and use special algorithms to test the spacecraft for any design flaws. They pipe in noise and create vibration levels that would be experienced during a typical blast off sequence.

“I think we got a call from a few of the neighbors going what's going on!?” said Shane Roskie, a Lockheed Martin Orion test manager.

The test only lasts about a minute because that is about the time it takes for the spacecraft to clear the atmosphere.

“We go to 143.8 decibels,” said Dan Qvale, a Lockheed Martin Orion test manager.

That is louder than a rock concert and louder than a jet engine. It is so loud, you can actually feel it.

“We're trying to create the environment the spacecraft is going see when it's on top of the new space launch system,” said Qvale.

The Orion capsule was launched from Kennedy Space Center last December. It traveled more than 3,600 miles away from Earth and later splashed-down off the Baja coast, South of California.

Now they're using Orion to test the new acoustic method and say it will save developers time and money.

“Currently the vehicle has to be transported off-site so it requires much more assembly, disassembly,” said Qvale.

Instead, by using the speakers to create the simulation they are able to test the craft on-site, suspended or on the ground.

Exploration Mission 1 (or EM-1), an unmanned flight mission, is expected to launch in November of 2018.


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