Orion Facing Months-Long Delay After PDU Failure

In early November, engineers at Lockheed Martin working on Orion noticed that a power component inside the vehicle had failed, according to an internal email and an internal PowerPoint presentation seen by The Verge. The component is within one of the spacecraft’s eight power and data units, or PDUs. The PDUs are the “main power/data boxes,” for Orion according to the email, responsible for activating key systems that Orion needs during flight.

The failure is a loss of redundancy and not a total system failure, so they could decide to fly as is, but that is extremely not NASA, especially on such a high-profile mission like Artemis 1.

The info Loren got is that there are a few ways to go about fixing the issue, but they all mean a months-long delay—between 4 and 9 months estimated—before Orion would be ready to meet SLS for flight.

The timeline here is interesting to discuss:

That linked blog post really is pretty much useless and does not indicate the extent of the problem. It’s clear that when Loren asked for a comment, NASA communications had an “Oh shit, it’s out there.” moment and put together a vague update so they could say they did have an update out there at all.

If NASA and Lockheed actually wanted to get this information out, they could have buried it last Wednesday before Thanksgiving here in the US. Instead, Loren had the scoop, NASA lost control of the narrative, and it certainly was not buried.

Part of me wonders if they were trying to wait to bury this news after the SLS Green Run. I haven’t heard anyone predict that things will go exactly as scheduled with that test and its results. It’s very likely that this Orion delay will not amount to a delay of Artemis 1 overall, and that would have been a good time to say “Oh yeah, Orion is also delayed a few months but we’re still on target for launch as schedule in 2022.”