Orion Spacecraft emergency reentry concerns addressed at NASA Langley Research Center.


jon round 1By  Jonathan Stroud

Journalists For Space was granted access to the NASA Orion water drop test Aug. 24, 2016, at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. The Orion test-capsule, NASA’s spacecraft designed to carry four astronauts beyond low Earth orbit (LEO), fell approximately 20 mph from 14 feet to simulate an emergency landing scenario. During the Orion spacecraft’s return to Earth, it will rely on multiple parachutes for a successful water landing, similar to the Apollo Command/Service Module (CSM).

Credit: NASA

Learning from the Apollo 15 mission, where one of the three chutes did not deploy during its return to Earth, the Orion water drop test simulated an expedited impact scenario during reentry. The data compiled helps account for other emergency scenarios, such as the spacecraft being thrown off course and unable to land at its desired oceanic location. The water drop test was nine of ten scheduled as NASA prepares for Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), the second unmanned Orion test flight, in late 2018. For the EM-1 mission NASA will utilize their newest advanced launch vehicle, the Space Launch System (SLS). The water drop tests, along with computer simulations, are an important stepping stone for NASA to insure a successful manned mission to Mars.

NASA Orion Splash Test Press Conference

Director of NASA Johnson Space Center, Ellen Ochoa, speaking about the Orion Splash Tests

NASA held a media press conference before the Orion water test to explain the importance of the event and showcase the capabilities of the spacecraft. Ellen Ochoa, Director of NASA Johnson Space Center, explained the importance of real-life tests versus relying solely on computer generated data. She explained that computer simulations would suffice,  but the “real-life” tests serve as a way for NASA to make sure their computer models match up with reality. Ochoa continued to describe how the Orion test-module contained two “anthropomorphic” test dummies simulating a male, approximately 225 lbs., and a female, approximately 105 lbs. The faux astronaut’s spacesuits were attached with body-sensors to help determine how a real physique might respond during an emergency landing.

Langley Behind the Scenes

Jonathan Stroud inside of the historic NASA Langley hangar

The NASA Social opportunity also included a behind-the-scenes look at NASA Langley’s historic hangar. Inside the massive structure was an array of NASA’s research aircraft, including a Lockheed C-130H Hercules used for airborne research and logistics, a Cirrus SR-22 unmanned aerial systems surrogate and several Dassault HU-25 Guardian jets recently obtained from the United States Coast Guard. Of particular interest were four Vietnam-era North American Rockwell OV-10G+ Bronco twin-engine light strike and reconnaissance airframes, two of which have recently been loaned to the Department of Defense in support of anti-ISIS special operations activities. For aviation and space journalist Collin Krum of Portland, Oregon, the hangar was the most fascinating aspect of the NASA Social event.

Krum noted that the diversity of aircrafts in the hangar illustrates the multitude of programs and research NASA Langley is supporting: “From the unique capabilities of the National Transonic Facility to their pioneering work in unmanned aerial systems, NASA Langley is clearly leading advances in the next generation of flight systems here on Earth. The public rightfully associates NASA with spaceflight, but I don’t think the agency gets enough credit for their contributions to intra-atmospheric flight. We shouldn’t forget that the first letter ‘A’ in the agency’s name stands for aeronautics.”

Melissa D. Lane, Ph.D, with Jonathan Stroud moments before the Orion water drop test

Another NASA Social attendee was Dr. Melissa Lane, a Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, who is currently involved with NASA’s Mars Odyssey mission. With her knowledge and expertise, Dr. Lane is helping NASA identify and study minerals found on the Red Planet in order to better understand the history of Mars.

Check out a video of the Orion water drop test below!

Make sure to keep up with more Orion spacecraft news and Space content at Journalists For Space.


Enjoy the “NASA SOCIAL ORION SPLASH TEST” article? Help support Journalists For Space by donating below!

paypal donate

One Comment

Add yours →

  1. Paula Kiger (Big Green Pen) September 5, 2016 — 4:34 pm

    Great detail here, Jonathan! I watched the test during the livestream – it’s helpful to have this additional detail!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: