Hot firing test mark the start of the Orion test campaign at NASA White Sands
The Propulsion Qualification Module (PQM) is a test module for Orion’s mission critical propulsion system. Currently Airbus, ESA and NASA engineers run a test campaign at the NASA test facility in White Sands (US, New Mexico). Although the PQM and its four propellant tanks will never see space, this is an important step in the development of the Orion programme. Complex systems must first be tested and qualified on Earth before being used as flight hardware in space. The challenge in manufacturing the test tanks was therefore to satisfy the numerous technical specifications, such as cleanliness, fuel compatibility and watertightness, that will also apply to the real propulsion system.
“ It is an important milestone, a huge success for the whole team and it perfectly demonstrates our engineering competence. My congratulations to the team but let’s not forget that we still have more tests to come.”
Bas Theelen, Orion Programme Manager, Airbus
The flight model will have 33 engines to provide thrust and to manoeuvre the spacecraft on all axes. The test module is equipped with less engines, among them a re-used engine which last flight occurred in 2011 with Space Shuttle Atlantis (OMS–E: Orbital Manoeuvre System Engine). “I am delighted to see these first successful hot firings” says Bas Theelen, Orion Programme Manager at Airbus Space Systems.The test campaign is expected to be terminated at the end of 2017 or the beginning of 2018.