July 23, 2012
Credit: Credit: Lockheed Martin
A full-scale NASA Orion test article has concluded a second parachute drop test at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, descending and touching down safely in spite of an intentional anomaly that led to an early inflation of the main chutes.
The July 18 drop test is a prelude to Orion’s Exploration Flight Test-1, a two-orbit unmanned flight test of the four-person capsule planned for 2014. With a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy as the propulsion source, the test will evaluate the performance of the spacecraft’s heat shield and other systems at deep-space mission re-entry velocities.
Dropped from a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport at 25,000 ft., the Orion parachute test vehicle touched down upright 4 min. later at the southern Arizona test site, following successive deployments of drogue, pilot and the three main chutes starting at 20,000 ft.
The drop featured a premature pyrotechnic cut of one of the so-called reefing lines that regulate the inflation of the parachutes. Despite the rapid inflation, the test vehicle landed with a velocity of 25 ft. per second, well within the threshold, according to a NASA summary.
“Across the country, NASA and industry are moving forward on the most advanced spacecraft ever designed, conducting drop and splashdown tests, preparing ground systems, designing software and computers and paving the way for the future of exploration,” said William Gerstenmaier, the agency’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, in a post-drop statement.
Orion and NASA’s Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket comprise the cornerstone of U.S. human deep-space exploration plans. As outlined by President Barack Obama, those plans include a mission to a near-Earth asteroid by 2025, followed by the eventual exploration of Mars. Orion also will provide a backup NASA capability to reach the International Space Station with crew and cargo.
A February drop of the Orion parachute test vehicle assessed parachute performance in response to the wake coming off the full-scale capsule.