NASA IS DEVELOPING A NEW crewed spacecraft called Orion… otherwise known as ‘Apollo on steroids’ because it looks like a bigger version of the spacecraft that took astronauts to the Moon.
Just like the Apollo command module, Orion will carry a heat-shield to protect it during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, and huge parachutes to bring it down to a soft landing.
NASA has been conducting a series of tests to make sure the parachute system will work properly.
The first video shows a test that was conducted last year, where an Orion mock-up was dropped from the back of a military cargo aircraft to see how well its parachutes would work. There are several ‘layers’ of parachutes, each designed to slow the craft down in stages and then help to pull out the bigger parachutes. Towards the end of the test, one of the three main chutes was deliberately cut loose to see how well the system would perform on just the remaining two chutes. See what happened…
The second video shows a more recent test of the system that will release a cover that protects the parachutes. We say release, but it’s more like a blast, as the cover is propelled upwards by small rocket thrusters and into a safety net. Take a look…
Orion is due to start taking US astronauts into orbit toward the end of this decade. But a first test flight into space will be conducted later this year, when an uncrewed test craft will be shot into a high orbit, from which it will then re-enter the atmosphere at great speed to test the heat-shield.
Story by Jonathan Nally. Videos courtesy of NASA.
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