NASA throws an Orion spacecraft into a giant pool


A test version of the Orion capsule returns to the water in preparation for the Artemis II missions.

A test version of the Orion capsule returns to the water in preparation for the Artemis II missions.
Image: POT (Fair use)

NASA is preparing to drop a 14,000-pound mockup of the Orion spacecraft into a large pool in Virginia, the latest in a series of drop tests leading up to the eventual Artemis II lunar mission. The test is scheduled for 1:45 pm ET and can be seen live on NASA television (see broadcast below).

The mockup drop crew module will take place at NASA’s Hydro Impact Basin. The new series of tests began on March 23 and is focused on finalizing the computer models for cargoes and structures ahead of the planned 2023 manned flight to the Moon., a mission called Artemis II (astronauts will not land on the Moon during this mission, which will, hopefully, arrive during Artemis III). The pool is 20 feet deep and contains approximately one and a half Olympic-size pools of water. Dropping the capsule from different angles and at various speeds helps NASA engineers understand how the capsule will withstand real-world conditions, such as entering Earth’s atmosphere and splashing into the ocean.

Before the SpaceX Crew Dragon team landed in the Gulf of Mexico last August, 45 years had passed since NASA made a landing. Now, half a century since the Apollo program, Artemis missions will take humans back to the Moon, with plans to bring our species to the lunar surface with Artemis III in 2024.. The missions must also see the astronauts return safely, balancing once again in the waters of the Pacific.

NASA practices every element of the landing, from its abort the system to the recovery of spaceships. The new drop tests will build on previous splashes and further enhance NASA’s awareness of what Orion and its crew will experience in the final and crucial moments of Artemis II’s return journey.

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