I checked another item off my ‘Bucket list’ last week. NASA enabled me up to ‘fly’ the Mars Orion simulator!
Jeff Fox, Lead Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) engineer (left) and Editor Steve T (right) in front of the Mars Orion Ascent/Entry Simulator at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. (Image courtesy of Loretta Taranovich)
The simulator has actual recorded audio and video from the Orion space capsule launch and re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere from Orion’s first test flight (uncrewed), known as Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1), which was launched atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket on December 5, 2014. A third sim I experienced was a Launch Abort system deployment after liftoff. (Image courtesy of Loretta Taranovich)
There are low frequency woofer speakers mounted inside the simulator so that I could feel what an astronaut would feel somewhat in the way of launch and atmosphere re-entry vibrations, as well as landing shock in the ocean (Without the G-Forces that are felt in a real situation).
A projector displays the actual footage on a wall behind the simulator so that when I was inside the sim I could look out of the capsule’s window, as would a trainee to see, feel, and hear what is happening below upon launch ascent in the first sim, then the Orion capsule descent into Earth’s atmosphere, parachutes deploying with explosive mortars, and then splashdown in the second sim. And finally, the third sim during a launch abort. In actuality, the astronauts would not be able to see out the windows of the capsule upon launch since there are protective coverings over the windows upon launch. This training sim does give trainees a good first experience of what is happening in each of the three scenarios.
Here is the Orion liftoff sequence as seen outside my window in the first sim. (Image courtesy of Loretta Taranovich)
More details on this to come on EDN and Planet Analog—–I have so much exciting news to share with you from my recent NASA Johnson Space Center visit and my NASA White Sands, NM visit where rocket engine tests take place in large vacuum chambers to simulate their operation in the cold void of space conditions.