Better safe than sorry, and NASA’s Orion parachutes pass test with flying colors when dropped dramatically from thousands of feet into the air. Getting man in space is just as important as successfully getting them back unharmed and safe when they return home.
Orion will reportedly “usher in a new era of space exploration” by sending astronauts to previously unexplored places, from Earth to an asteroid, to Mars and then back to Earth again. NASA’s ambitious project is now under test to make sure that all humans on board will come back home safely.
In order to predict any potential malfunctions and make sure there will be no hitch where none can be afforded, a mock-up of the spacecraft with the same weight and base surface area, but not in size, was boarded on a U.S. military C-17 cargo aircraft and tossed toward the ground from 35,000 feet.
Its success was vital to furthering the research of a promising mission. The 11 parachutes the Orion spacecraft and its dummy are equipped with, had to perform the feat of slowing it down while it plummets toward the ground at a speed of 300 miles per hour, and gradually lessen it to a more manageable 20 miles per hour that would guarantee safety.
The test became necessary after in 2008, the Orion was accidentally left without one of its parachutes and crashed to the ground at full speed, upside down that would’ve been fatal for the crew on board. This time, the malfunctions were purposefully created and tested.
During landing simulation done in the Arizona desert, two of the five parachutes were designed to fail and observed by engineers how the capsule handled their malfunction. It has been deemed as the ‘worst case scenario’ that might happen. No matter how low the chances, it’s a risk that cannot be taken or afforded as such dangerous speeds.
The project manager for Orion’s parachute system, C.J. Johnson stated that it would have been very difficult to model the capsule’s landing on a computer, and instead required a dramatic test in order to accurately predict how it would react to horrible and unlikely situations. However, Orion pulled through without a hitch.
Even with two purposefully sabotaged main parachutes, the capsule landed safely on Earth, but it’s not over just yet. Orion has been said to require 40 tests before the system will be tested by humans, and this particular one has been its penultimate before the final one would bring NASA closer to licensing the spacecraft as safe.
Image source: gizmag.com