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Two parachutes out of three ain’t bad for NASA’s Orion spacecraft

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February 15, 2013

The Orion parachute test on February 12, 2013 (Photo: NASA)

The Orion parachute test on February 12, 2013 (Photo: NASA)

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A test version of NASA’s Orion space capsule made a parachute drop near Yuma, Arizona on Tuesday with only two of its three parachutes working. Dropped from a Hercules transport aircraft from an altitude of 25,000 feet (7,620 m), it wasn't an accident, but a deliberate nobbling of one of the chutes by NASA engineers to prove the capsule could safely return to Earth in the event of such a failure.

According to NASA, this seventh parachute test is important because Orion is intended for deep space missions to the Moon and beyond. This means that when the 21,000-pound (9,525-kg) capsule returns to Earth, it will be traveling at over 20,000 mph (32,000 km/h) – a speed not seen by a manned spacecraft since the Apollo program.

Another link to Apollo is that such a parachute failure did occur on August 7, 1971 when Apollo 15 splashed down, so such a scenario is more than hypothetical. An eighth drop test is scheduled for May, and Orion’s first unmanned test flight will take place in 2014, when it will travel 3,600 miles (5,800 km) away from Earth for a high-velocity reentry.

The video below shows the Orion spacecraft being dropped at the start of the test.

Source: NASA

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
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1 Comment

NASA should just use SpaceX Dragon. It will be lower cost and ready sooner.

Slowburn
15th February, 2013 @ 06:33 pm PST
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