NASA engineers at the Virginia-based Langley Research Center have begun a new series of four water impact drop tests using a test version of the agency’s Orion spacecraft capsule.
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The tests, conducted at Langley’s Landing and Impact Research Facility’s Hydro Impact Basin in Hampton, will simulate various landing scenarios to help researchers get a clearer picture of what Orion and his crew may experience when landing in the Pacific Ocean. after the planned Artemis missions. to the moon.
Orion will be launched on NASA’s new heavy-lift rocket, the 322-foot-tall Space Launch System (SLS), to be used on Artemis I by the end of the year.
During the first Artemis mission, the SLS rocket will send an unmanned Orion on a flight around the lunar planet and back to Earth, marking the first of three missions.
NASA plans to land the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024 in order to “explore more lunar surface than ever” and prepare for the next step: sending astronauts to Mars.
While engineers officially began testing with a rough model of Orion in 2011, NASA had conducted a series of earlier drop tests with what they called a ground test item in the basin in 2016.
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However, the new tests use a new crew module configuration, built at prime contractor Lockheed Martin’s facility in Colorado, that “represents the final design of the spacecraft,” according to a statement.
“Water impact test data is part of the formal qualification testing program to meet structural design and requirements verification prior to Artemis II, NASA’s first manned Artemis mission,” wrote NASA. . “The information will help feed final computer models for loads and structures prior to the Artemis II flight test.”
In an earlier statement, NASA wrote that there had been several structural updates and improvements to the crew module, noting that data from the 2021 tests would be included in the final computer modeling.
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“It’s less about trying to reduce model uncertainty and more about loading to design limits, bringing the model higher in elevation and more load, not testing requirements, but testing to the extremes,” explained Chris Tarkenton, leader. technical, in November.
“Thousands of possibilities will come down to a few critical cases. We will examine the data and make sure the models are correlated to test and adjust the models as needed to gain confidence,” said project manager Bryan Russ. “It helps us know that the models are reliable and representative of what will be experienced during flight scenarios.”