NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has spent more than 2,200 days in low-Earth orbit (LEO), spending almost all of that time on a suborbital trajectory over the past six years.
But while the spacecraft has made its best efforts to keep its temperature below 10 degrees Celsius, its main heat shield has proven a liability.NASA recently updated its heat shield, allowing spacecraft crews to add a layer of heat-absorbing material to its core.
This means the spacecraft is able to withstand temperatures that are lower than those experienced by a human.
In fact, NASA estimates the heat shield could be up to 25 percent less effective at protecting the spacecraft than the original design, which had a protective layer that could absorb more than 50 percent of the heat it absorbed.
NASA has also increased the temperature-temperature tolerance on the heat shields, allowing crewmembers to safely extend their stay in space indefinitely without the loss of vital equipment.NASA officials say the heat shielding design has saved the space agency hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years, but critics say the design could have been better.NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies has called for the heat-shield design to be redesigned.
In a blog post published on Tuesday, NASA officials defended the spacecraft’s current design.
“The heat shield system, although very good, is not the best of the best,” the blog post said.
“We know that this shield has not always been adequate.
But with the advent of the new spacecraft heat shield we can finally put the heatshield design into question.”NASA’s design has not been changed since the spacecraft first launched in 2003, and it’s unclear when it will be removed from the orbiter.
The heat shield will be replaced with a new heat shield with a higher heat-density layer.