NASA Completes Successful Parachute Test For Orion Spacecraft

Posted: Mar 11 2017, 12:22pm CST | by , Updated: Mar 12 2017, 6:16am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
NASA Completes Successful Parachute Test for Orion Spacecraft
Credit: NASA

This was the second test in a series of eight that will certify Orion's parachute system for astronauts' return from deep space missions

NASA successfully completes another dramatic parachute test for its Orion spacecraft on March 8 high above the skies of the U.S. Yuma Army Proving Ground in southwestern Arizona. It was the second in a series of eight that will continue for about two and a half year and certify Orion's parachutes for astronauts for their safe return to Earth from deep-space missions.

The primary object of the latest parachute test was to determine how astronauts would descent if they had to end a mission after take-off. According to NASA website, the testing was done through a C-17 aircraft flying at 25,000 feet.

Orion is the most advanced spacecraft ever designed. It will carry astronauts deeper into space than ever before and ensure their safe re-entry and landing. The Orion’s parachute system is composed of 11 parachutes in total and they are deployed in a precise sequence. Three parachutes pull off Orion’s forward bay cover which will collect important data while two parachutes are deployed to slow the capsule and steady it. Then, there are three pilot parachutes that will pull out three main white and orange parachutes, on which Orion will take its final 8,000 feet of descending ride.

Orion’s parachute system is a critical part of future astronauts who will travel to deep space aboard the spacecraft and return to Earth upon the completion of the space missions. The parachute system can slow down the spacecraft from 300 mph to just 20 mph in a matter of minutes before landing. Orion spacecraft weighs more than 22,000 pounds while each of the main parachutes only weighs 300 pounds, so it will be a remarkable feet if they could able to stabilize and reduce the speed of heavy spacecraft as it descends through the air.

To qualify the parachute system for the future crewed flights, the system had to go through extreme conditions and successfully complete the remaining tests over the course of next few months.

During Orion’s first unmanned test flight in space in 2014, the parachute system performed remarkably well and caused the spacecraft to splash down in the Pacific Ocean after traveling 3,600 miles into space. That's 15 times farther from Earth than the International Space Station.

Orion’s next unmanned mission will venture into space in 2018, where parachutes will be pushed to their extreme limits. The mission will help researchers determine whether they they can count on the system for the Orion’s first manned mission that is currently targeted for as early as 2021.

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