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Tech journalist since the dark ages. Windows Secrets, LangaList newsletter, Windows Magazine (NetGuide, Home PC), Byte, Popular Computing, yadda yadda yadda. Google me, if it matters.

This feed is mostly personal interest; it's NOT my professional writing. There's tech here, yes, but also lots of general science and some politics and weird humor thrown in.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Surprising details about the Orion spacecraft

I thought I was more or less up to speed on Orion, the new crew capsule/spacecraft that NASA's been developing.

Turns out I wasn't.

I dunno if my news sources are poor, or if NASA's PR machinery has succumbed to budget cuts, but I was very surprised by a Quora article written by a NASA flight engineer, "What tech upgrades does the Orion ship have compared with those used in the Apollo missions?"

Among the tidbits:

  • The main part of the capsule is reusable for up to 10 flights. The outer skin of the capsule (heat shield and side panels) get trashed in each flight, but the pressure vessel --- containing the crew space, life support systems, command/navigation/communications gear --- all gets reused.
  • Orion is wired like a decent home office: gigabit Ethernet, 120v AC circuitry, and a big uninterruptable power supply: banks of Lithium-ion batteries recharged by solar cells.
  • It has a glass cockpit. There are only 60-some manual switches in Orion, and they're there to ensure that critical circuits can be controlled even if the software-driven controls fail.
  • It uses GPS (among other redundant systems) to navigate in low orbit.

Lots more: http://www.quora.com/NASA-Launches-Deep-Space-Orion-Capsule-December-2014/Its-been-45-years-since-NASA-first-sent-a-person-to-the-moon-Thats-a-long-time-in-technology-terms-What-tech-upgrades-does-the-Orion-ship-have-compared-with-those-used-in-the-Apollo-missions