Thursday, April 24, 2014

Testing Orion's Parachutes


NASA's Orion crew module  is said to be "the safest spacecraft ever built to carry humans",

One of the most critical components on the Orion is the parachute system.  The team responsible for  Orion's parachute have demonstrated every type of failure they could imagine. But recently they began tests that center on failures that did not involve the parachutes but the launch system during the early stages of a mission - failure on the pad or sub-orbital, they tested how the parachutes would perform.

  Its called the Launch Abort System.  (from the article on Science Daily)
  •  In an emergency on the launch pad or during the early stages of ascent, it can activate in milliseconds to pull the crew to safety. Once it has pulled the crew away from the emergency, it's up to the parachutes to bring them down for a safe landing..

  • To simulate those conditions, a test version of Orion was dropped from a C-17 at 13,000 feet above the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground, with the main parachutes deploying soon after leaving the plane, before the capsule had a chance to straighten out. All the elements worked together and the parachutes reached a fully open state setting up a soft landing as expected. But the real value of the test will come with the data the engineers were able to gather from it. 
Orion's first mission will be four hours long and unmanned.   The capsule will be launched 3600 miles into space and make two orbits of Earth   and re-enter the atmosphere at 20,000 mph and temperatures nearing 4000 degrees Fahrenheit .

Again, from the Science Daily blog:
  • (This first flight will be) to test several of its most critical systems, including its parachutes.

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