Wednesday, July 24, 2013

NASA Orion Crew Module: Parachute Test

NASA's Orion spacecraft will carry astronauts further into space than ever before using a module based on Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATV). The image was released Jan. 17, 2013.

Credit: ESA–D. Ducros

NASA's next manned spaceship, the Orion capsule, will be dropped over Arizona Wednesday (July 24) for a parachute test.

Orion is a gumdrop-shaped vehicle designed to take astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit to the moon, Mars and nearby asteroids.

The spacecraft is expected to make its first test flight to space in 2014, with its initial crewed flight coming in 2021.

Wednesday's test will see an Orion prototype dropped from a plane at an altitude of 35,000 feet (10,700 meters) over the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground in southwestern Arizona. Engineers will simulate a series of failures and test the parachute system's ability to adapt and land the capsule safely.

Orion has three main parachutes, and the NASA team plans to simulate the failure of one of the trio to see if the landing sequence can proceed safely with only two.

These parachutes will be necessary to slow the spacecraft's descent after its first trip to space, the 2014 test flight scheduled to send the capsule 3,600 miles (5,800 km) away from Earth —well beyond the orbit of the International Space Station.

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