NASA Completes Orion Parachute Tests for Missions with Astronauts

An Orion test capsule with its three main parachutes touches down in the Arizona desert Sept. 12. (Credit: NASA)

YUMA, Ariz. (NASA PR) — NASA has completed the final test to qualify Orion’s parachute system for flights with astronauts, checking off an important milestone on the path to send humans on missions to the Moon and beyond.

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Orion Parachutes Measure Up in High Pressure Test

Orion parachute test at Yuma Proving Ground. (Credit: NASA/James Blair)

YUMA, Ariz. (NASA PR) — Orion’s three main orange and white parachutes help a representative model of the spacecraft descend through sky above Arizona, where NASA engineers tested the parachute system on Sept. 13, 2017, at the U.S. Army Proving Ground in Yuma. NASA is qualifying Orion’s parachutes for missions with astronauts.

During this test, engineers replicated a situation in which Orion must abort off the Space Launch System rocket and bypass part of its normal parachute deployment sequence that typically helps the spacecraft slow down during its descent to Earth after deep space missions. The capsule was dropped out of a C-17 aircraft at more than 4.7 miles in altitude and allowed to free fall for 20 seconds, longer than ever before, to produce high aerodynamic pressure before only its pilot and main parachutes were deployed, testing whether they could perform as expected under extreme loads. Orion’s full parachute system includes 11 total parachutes — three forward bay cover parachutes and two drogue parachutes, along with three pilot parachutes that help pull out the spacecraft’s three mains.

NASA Tests Orion Spacecraft Parachute Jettison over Arizona

A test version of NASA’s Orion spacecraft touches down in the Arizona desert after its most complicated parachute test to date. (Credit: NASA)
A test version of NASA’s Orion spacecraft touches down in the Arizona desert after its most complicated parachute test to date. (Credit: NASA)

YUMA, Ariz. (NASA PR) — Engineers testing the parachute system for NASA’s Orion spacecraft increased the complexity of their tests Thursday, Jan. 16, adding the jettison of hardware designed to keep the capsule safe during flight.

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