The first space-worthy Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) will soon start to be assembled at the NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC), in Florida, the former home of the space shuttle fleet. Engineers say that a mobile, roofless clean room could be built around the spacecraft.
For many years, scientists believed that a clean room-like environment
could only be achieved by controlling the conditions inside a
specially-designed, well-isolated chamber very rigorously. Now, they are
beginning to figure out that this may not be the case at all times.
Currently, NASA is testing a design where the clean room is installed
around the spacecraft being built. This is a significant departure from
regular standards, where the vehicles are assembled inside aseptic
conditions, Science Daily reports.
The concept was developed by Austin, Texas-based aerospace company
Astrotech Corporation. Engineers here came up with the idea to build an
installation that would ensure no dust settles on the spacecraft's
They say that installing two, 10-foot (3-meter) high walls of
filter-equipped fans on either side of the capsule could create an even
airflow, and enough air motion to prevent any particles from settling on
the MPCV's components.
The other two walls of the clean room would be made up of clear
materials, and the ceiling would be non-existent. Astrotech experts
explain the lack of a roof by the necessity to access the large cranes
already installed inside the KSC Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).
These cranes will be used to hoist the completed Orion atop the Space
Launch System (SLS) rocket NASA is developing for its new spacecraft.
The delivery system's maiden flight is scheduled for no earlier than
“The guys over in the Operations and Checkout Building are using this
and that's what gave us the idea. It's pretty innovative, so we'll see
if it works,” NASA Ground Systems Development and Operations Program
engineer, Doug Lenhardt, says.
“The results have been encouraging. We don't have the full story yet, but it's been encouraging,” he concludes.