June 14, 2016 – Engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, are evaluating the Orion spacecraft and crew safety. Engineers are mimicking various mission finale scenarios by dropping a test version of Orion, coupled with the heat shield from the spacecraft’s first flight, into Langley’s 20-foot (6.1-meter) deep Hydro Impact Basin.
When Orion returns from venturing thousands of miles into deep space, it will splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California. Each test in the water-impact series simulates different scenarios for Orion’s parachute-assisted landings, wind conditions, velocities and wave heights the spacecraft and crew may experience when landing in the ocean.
In the latest test, the mockup of the Orion spacecraft was pulled back like a pendulum and released, plunging into the Hydro Impact Basin. Crash-test dummies wearing modified Advanced Crew Escape Suits were securely seated inside the capsule to help engineers understand how splashdown could impact the crew and seats. Sensors collected data that will inform the design of the Orion spacecraft.
NASA is building Orion to launch atop the world’s most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), and carry astronauts to deep space destinations, including on the journey to Mars.
Lockheed Martin in Littleton, Colorado is the prime contractor for the Orion spacecraft.