NASA successfully completed the second out of eight tests for the parachute system of the Orion spacecraft. These parachutes are meant for the use of astronauts when they return from deep space missions.
The second parachute test was successful
The successful test for the Orion parachute was performed on March 8th near the U.S. Yuma Army Proving Ground situated in southwestern Arizona. This was the second test and six more are going to be performed over a period of two years and a half. They are meant to certify the safety of the parachutes of the Orion spacecraft, which astronauts will use in their return from space missions.
The aim of this test was to see how the astronauts can descend in case they need to end the mission after take-off. NASA revealed on their website that the aircraft they used for this test was C-17 plane which was flying at 25,000 feet above the ground.
What is the purpose of the Orion spacecraft?
Orion is one of the most sophisticated spacecraft ever designed. It is able to travel deeper into space than any other shuttle has traveled and it can provide the safety of the astronomers during the flight and at the landing.
Orion has a system of 11 parachutes which can be deployed in a pre-established order. Three parachutes are deployed from the front to collect important data, while two others are meant to slow down the capsule and make it steadier. Then, three pilot parachutes pull out the three main white and orange ones, which are used for the final descending ride.
The perfect functioning of the parachutes is of crucial importance for Orion and for the astronauts inside. This complex system can slow down the spacecraft from 300 mph to 20 mph only in a few seconds, if they function properly.
The job of the parachutes might be a little bit hard, since the spacecraft weighs more than 22,000 pounds and each parachute weighs around 300 pounds. Thus, it might prove a little challenging to stabilize such a heavy spacecraft. Now, the parachutes need to undergo the next tests into extreme conditions during the following months, to ensure their optimal functioning for Orion’s next flight with a crew aboard.
Orion’s next mission without a crew will take place in 2018, when the parachutes will be subjected to extreme conditions. This will allow the researchers to see if Orion is ready for its first mission with a crew, which is set for 2021.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons