Monday, May 21, 2007
Orion, the Apollo-style capsule that will replace the Space Shuttle and allow trips beyond Earth orbit, is still being refined. The link takes you to some of the latest concepts.
A major redesign of the Service Module has shaved 1,000 pounds from the craft. Originally, as in Apollo the walls of the service module were load-bearing. In the redesign, the load is carried by struts in an internal truss system, allowing the Service Module to be much smaller. The new, smaller module is surrounded by three panels that are jettisoned after the craft clears the atmosphere, much like the payload fairings that protect satellites during launch. Since the Service Module is encapuslated by these panels, it has been redesignated the Encapsulated Service Module (ESM).
It may save a lot of weight but it sure looks funny to have the capsule so much wider than the service module. Of course, they still aren't finished with tweaking the design so it may get stranger yet.