Orion Capsule Gets One Step Closer
NASA’s Orion deep-space capsule has passed another test on its way to space, a test of its parachute system. The capsule was dropped from 35,000ft., allowed to freefall for 10 seconds, and then the parachutes deployed without any complications. From NASA news:
“We’ve put the parachutes through their paces in ground and airdrop testing in just about every conceivable way before we begin sending them into space on Exploration Flight Test (EFT)-1 before the year’s done,” said Orion Program Manager Mark Geyer. “The series of tests has proven the system and will help ensure crew and mission safety for our astronauts in the future.”
The Orion capsule is NASA’s next generation spacecraft. It is a 4-person multi-purpose capsule capable of deep-space missions lasting up to three weeks. It can therefore carry crews to nearby asteroids or the moon. NASA claims Orion will eventually be used for missions to Mars, but three weeks is not near enough for such missions so obviously some modifications will be necessary.
An Orion capsule will launch unmanned later this year into low-Earth orbit for another critical test. Orion is designed to be launched by the Space Launch System (SLS), with a first launch planned for 2017. NASA plans the first crewed flight in 2021.
For comparison, Space X’s Dragon V2 capsule can carry 7 crew, but is designed for low-earth orbit only, and will mainly be used to carry crew and supplies to the ISS.