Technologies that a Manned Spacecraft must have to Survive in Deep Space

Technologies that a Manned Spacecraft must have to Survive in Deep Space

Deep Space Missions are not easy by any stretch of the imagination.

The number of space missions is increasing quite rapidly these days following the idea of finding signs of life in other parts of the universe. For now, most of the missions are unmanned but this might change pretty soon because the astronomers want to send humans into space as soon as possible. Whatever way you may look at it, this is an extremely complex task to accomplish. One of the first things that the researchers need to take care of is the spacecraft. It must have a specific set of features to ensure the safety of the crew during a long, testing venture.

Orion Spacecraft provides a good example in this regard as it is expected to fly 1000 times farther than the International Space Station. No other manned spacecraft has achieved this feat in the past. The engineering team of this spacecraft has incorporated some technologies into it that will be crucial for this mission. A brief description of these built-in features is described below.

Powerful Propulsion Systems

Quite obviously, longer journeys require more powerful propulsion systems in order to ensure that the spacecraft stay on-course. Proper functioning of the propulsion system becomes even more important in case of a manned mission due to the added responsibility of human lives. The service module of Orion is the real powerhouse of the spacecraft. It has 33 engines of various sizes which provide propulsion to go around the Moon and back on its exploration missions.

The main engine is assigned the duties of major in-space maneuvering like inserting the spacecraft into lunar orbit and firing it out of it. All the other engines are needed for steering the Orion while it is orbiting the moon. Additionally, the service module of Orion can handle various problems and can bring the crew home safely in case of an emergency.

Protection from Radiations

The quantity and intensity of the harmful cosmic radiations will certainly increase when a spacecraft goes beyond the protection of the Earth’s magnetic field. This may not only disrupt the working of the equipment but it can also lead to several health problems for the astronauts. The severity of these issues ranges from radiation sickness to cancer. A handful of radiation sensors are installed on Orion to keep track of the radiations in the environment. In addition to that, Orion has a makeshift storm shelter which can help the onboard scientists to keep themselves safe from these dangerous rays. An experimental vest will also travel to space on the Exploration Mission-1 which can potentially shield vital organs against these radiations.

Endure Extreme Levels of Heat

The amount of heat generated by a spacecraft is directly proportional to the distance it travels in space. According to the calculations of the scientists at NASA, Orion will need to endure heat twice as hot as molten lava when coming back towards the Earth. In order to cope that much heat, researchers have created an advanced heat shield which will wear away as it heats up. It is made from a special material called AVCOAT and is the largest of its kind. It will enable the spacecraft to bear temperatures in the range of 5000o F while entering the atmosphere of our planet. Similarly, the thermal protection system of Orion will endure a 700-degree temperature range (-150o F to 550o F) before reentering the atmosphere.

Suitable Environment for Humans

Once all the external factors are catered, we need to develop a human-friendly environment inside the spacecraft. First and foremost, the system responsible for keeping the astronauts alive must be highly reliable and shouldn’t take much place. Advanced environmental control and life support systems will be added to Orion to meet the demands of a deep space mission. These systems will eliminate humidity and Carbon Dioxide from the spacecraft. Similarly, water condensation on the hardware is incorporated to preserve sensitive equipment from corrosion and other issues.

The design of the toilet is also improved to make it space-efficient so that maximum space is available for the comfort of the crew. In the case of depressurization, the spacesuits inside Orion can keep the astronauts safe for six days to support a long trip home.

Communication and Navigation

Communicating with Earth is a massive necessity given the fact that the astronauts will be away for a considerable period of time. Orion will use all the Space Communication Networks of NASA during its journey (Near Earth Network, Space Network, and Deep Space Network). It also has a backup system for communication in case the primary system breaks down. Orion uses Optical Navigation in which pictures of the Earth, moon, and stars are taken to automatically triangulate the position of the spacecraft.

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