Testing at Lockheed Martin’s Sunnyvale, Calif., facility showed that NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle will be able to successfully jettison its protective fairing panels when it launches unmanned next September atop a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket, Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin Space Systems announced Nov 7.

A series of precisely timed explosive charges and mechanisms performed as intended, separating all three protective panels at the expected velocity and trajectory. In a similar test Lockheed Martin conducted in June, all pyrotechnic mechanisms and bolts separated as planned, but one of the three protective panels did not fully detach.

In the latest test, the second of three Lockheed Martin plans to conduct to provide Orion’s fairing design, engineers used strip heaters to heat one of the fairings to 93 degrees Celsius, simulating the temperature the spacecraft will experience during its climb to orbit.

“This successful test provides the Orion team with the needed data to certify this new fairing design for Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) next year. The test also provides significant risk reduction for the fairing separation on future Orion manned missions,” said Lance Lininger, engineering lead for Lockheed Martin’s Orion mechanism systems.

Orion’s fairings are designed to support half the weight of the spacecraft and the launch abort system during launch and ascent. Lockheed said the novel fairing design “improves performance, saves mass, and maximizes the size and capability of the spacecraft.”