The Orion module’s first mission may be five years away at the earliest, but this hasn’t stopped NASA from proceeding with its development well in advance. NASA’s impact tests for the module have already begun using a mockup of the spacecraft carrying a dummy crew aboard. This series of tests allows the engineers working on the craft to analyse how human bodies would be affected when the module lands in the ocean on its return to Earth.
Engineers at the Langley Research Center have been responsible for running the tests, where the module mockup has been dropped into a 20-foot deep Hydro Impact Basin from a height of 16-feet in the first of the tests. Contained within the capsule are a pair of test dummies, a 105-pound woman and a 220-pound man, which will allow the tests to show the effects of the landing on the different body types of those that could be aboard.
This is the first of a series of nine planned tests, with the remainder of the tests set to measure how the capsule holds up in a number of scenarios that could affect the capsule’s descent and landing. Future tests are set to include simulated factors such as wind and wave conditions as well as drops from different heights to see how it holds up. All of this data will then be fed back into the development of Orion in order to ensure that the capsule is safe for the astronauts that will ride it in future.
Orion is intended to be utilized on deep space trips to Mars and beyond along with the SLS rocket, which may be enough to kick-start a new era of manned space exploration within the next decade.