NASA to fly deep-space capsule despite power unit component issue

NASA has decided to fly its Orion spacecraft which is designed to carry humans to deep space without fixing a failed power unit component.

During their troubleshooting, engineers evaluated the option to “use as is” with the high-degree of available redundancy or remove and replace the box, NASA said on Friday.

As a spacecraft designed to carry humans to deep space, Orion is built with significantly more redundancy to protect against failures than a robotic spacecraft, the US space agency said.

Engineers identified an issue with a redundant channel on one of the Orion spacecraft’s Power and Data Unit (PDU) communication cards during final assembly of the spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Orion has a total of eight PDUs, each of which has two cards with two redundant channels on each card that help provide communication between Orion’s flight computers to its components.

The PDU is still fully functional and will use its primary channel during the Artemis I mission, which is a non-crewed test flight.

During their troubleshooting, the engineers determined that due to the limited accessibility to this particular box, the degree of intrusiveness to the overall spacecraft systems, and other factors, the risk of collateral damage outweighed the risk associated with the loss of one leg of redundancy in a highly redundant system.

Therefore, NASA has made the decision to proceed with vehicle processing.

NASA said it has confidence in the health of the overall power and data system, which has been through thousands of hours of powered operations and testing.

Engineers will perform additional testing and continue to monitor the health of the spacecraft while Orion is powered on to provide continued confidence in the system.

NASA said it remains on track for Orion’s scheduled launch in November 2021.

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