Engineers don’t expect three small cracks that appeared in the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle pressure vessel to delay the planned first flight of ’s next human spacecraft in 2014.
The cracks in three adjacent radial ribs machined into the aft bulkhead did not go all the way through, and the vessel continued to hold pressure after the failure at 21.6 psi, according to aspokeswoman. Part of the human-rating process, the tests are intended to verify engineering models and the capsule’s structural integrity.
Subsequent analysis has ruled out any issues that would prevent a repair, which will be subjected to the same pressure checks. “We’ll learn from this test and continue preparations for Exploration Flight Test-1 in 2014,” NASA says in reference to a two-orbit unmanned flight designed to test the vehicle’s thermal protection system on a high-speed re-entry.
Similar cracks appeared in the International Space Station’s-built Unity node, which took a weight hit from the modifications necessary to overcome them. Later U.S. pressurized modules were built at a factory in Turin, Italy.