Shuttle is dead — long live the MPCV

AS NASA CLOSES THE CHAPTER on the space shuttle programme, a new era of exploration vehicles is beginning to take off.

Testing began this month in the new Hydro Impact Basin at NASA’s Langley Research Centre, to certify the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) for water landings.

The Orion MPCV will carry astronauts into space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and ensure safe re-entry and landing.

Engineers have dropped a 10-tonne MPCV mock-up into the basin. The test item is similar in size and shape to MPCV, but is more rigid so that it can withstand multiple drops.

Each test has a different drop velocity to represent the MPCV’s possible entry conditions during water landings.

The last of three drop tests to verify the new facility is scheduled for the end of this month.

Testing will resume in September with a slightly modified test article that is more representative of the actual MPCV.

The new Hydro Impact Basin is 35 metres long, 27 metres wide and 6 metres deep. It is located at the west end of Langley’s historic Landing and Impact Research Facility, or Gantry, where Apollo astronauts trained for moonwalks.

Here’s an overview video of the Orion MPCV programme:

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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