PHOTO GALLERY: NASA Marshall shows off Orion’s heat shield after dissecting it for testing

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REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (WHNT) – When we last saw Orion’s heat shield, it looked crispy.

Now it looks naked.

They’ve cut away the outer, charred layer, square by square.

Deepak Bose oversees part of the testing they’ll do. He explains, “What we are doing here is extracting critical samples from the thermal protection system of the EFT-1 heat shield.”

Each square of charred outer layer gets labeled with a number to designate its location.

Then the squares get packaged up and sent all over the country to different NASA centers for different kind of testing.

The fleshy outer shell actually  shows what the heat shield looks like before it goes through space, but as Bose points out, “The temperatures above the surface reach above four-thousand degrees fahrenheit, and that chars the material.”

The material is called AVCOAT, and it’s been used since Apollo. It actually feels like balsa wood.

“It feels like that,” admits Bose, “There may be some chemical similarities there, but it is not cork or balsa. It is organic in nature for the most part.”

The finished product represents an immense amount of technology and craftsmanship.

Bose details it, “Each of these 330,000 cells that you see in these fiberglass honeycomb cells are filled individually by hand.”

Now each of the nearly 200 squares of the outer layer will be analyzed by hand.

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