The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is planning to conduct a test of parachutes for the agency’s Orion spacecraft on Wednesday, Dec. 13, at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.
This test is the fifth in a series of eight to qualify the parachute system for crewed Orion missions.
During the test, a model Orion spacecraft will be dropped from a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft flying at an altitude of 35,000 feet.
Engineers will evaluate a simulated scenario in which one of the three main parachutes fails to open after the deployment of several other parachutes that help slow and stabilize the spacecraft.
Orion’s parachutes are critical to the safe return of the spacecraft and its future crews after deep-space exploration missions. They help Orion slow from about 300 to 20 mph in less than 10 minutes, enabling a safe splashdown in the ocean.
Orion will carry astronauts farther into the solar system than ever before, provide emergency abort capabilities, sustain the crew during their mission and provide safe re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere.
Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion MPCV) is an American spacecraft intended to carry a crew of four astronauts to destinations at or beyond low Earth orbit (LEO).
Currently under development by NASA for launch on the Space Launch System (SLS), Orion is intended to facilitate human exploration of asteroids and of Mars and to retrieve crew or supplies from the International Space Station (ISS) if needed.
The Orion MPCV was announced by NASA on May 24, 2011, and is currently under development. Its design is based on the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle from the cancelled Constellation program. It has two main modules. The Orion command module is being built by Lockheed Martin at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The Orion Service Module, provided by the European Space Agency, is being built by Airbus Defence and Space.
The MPCV’s first test flight (uncrewed), known as Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1), was launched atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket on December 5, 2014, on a flight lasting 4 hours and 24 minutes, landing at its target in the Pacific Ocean at 10:29 Central. The first mission to carry astronauts is not expected to take place until 2023 at the earliest, although NASA officials have said that their staff is working toward an “aggressive internal goal” of 2021.