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NASA has successfully completed the first water drop test for the Orion spacecraft, which will carry astronauts to the Moon and beyond as a part of the Artemis missions.

Engineers based on the Langley Research Center's Landing and Impact Research Facility in Hampton, Virginia, initiated the test, with cameras capturing the drop of the 11-foot (3.35 meters) capsule into the "hydro impact basin," which is basically a large tank of water designed for simulating various landing environments.

For the first drop test of the latest Orion model, the spacecraft was released from a height of 18 inches.

Orion Water Drop Tests
(Photo: Kathy Lueders Twitter Page)
"The @NASA_Orion spacecraft is making a big splash! Engineers at @NASA_Langley began a series of four water impact drop tests to understand better what Orion & its crew may experience when they land in the Pacific Ocean after #Artemis missions to the Moon," wrote Kathy Lueders, Associate Director of the Human Explorations and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA, on Twitter, March 26.

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Orion Drop Tests: A Critical Procedure Before Artemis II

NASA has begun testing the initial prototypes of Orion as early as 2011, with the space administration conducting a series of drop tests in what was designated as a "Ground Test Article" at the Langley facility, using the test data gathered for improvements to ensure the safety of its passengers better.

However, NASA reports that the latest water drop test uses the latest configuration of the Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle (MPCV) - the one developed at the Colorado facility of the lead contractor and aerospace manufacturer Lockheed Martin. This configuration is supposedly the "final design" for the Orion, NASA says in its latest press release.

Additionally, the space administration explains that the data gathered from these tests are required for the "structural design and requirement verification before Artemis II," the first crewed flight scheduled in 2023. The first Artemis mission, set for a November 2021 launch, is an uncrewed flight that will go to the Moon and back to Earth.

Finally, the plan to "land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024" takes shape with the Artemis III mission - with the Artemis missions in their entirety serving as the basis for space missions beyond.

"This is less about trying to reduce model uncertainty and more about loading up to design limits, bringing the model higher in elevation and higher in load, not testing to requirements, but testing to extremes," said Chris Tarkenton, NASA project engineer, back in November when the water drop tests were first announced. He adds that the "design" test is not just the shape of the spacecraft, but how all of its components will interact and will be fabricated in the future.

About the Orion MPCV Spacecraft

The Orion spacecraft is a partially reusable space capsule, originally designed and proposed by Lockheed Martin first for the canceled NASA Constellation Program. It is, however, picked up as the exploration vehicle for the Artemis missions.

It is expected to provide sustenance for the astronauts during space missions and safe re-entry upon their return to earth. The MPCV will be integrated into the Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket to date, and will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Despite the Artemis I being an uncrewed flight, it will still include the Orion in the launch vehicle to gather additional data for the succeeding missions.

 

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Check out more news and information on the Artemis Mission in Science Times.