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Orion’s parachutes tested in high deserts of Arizona

Orion parachute test (2017-12-15)

NASA is testing Orion’s parachutes to qualify the system for missions with astronauts. (Click for full view) Photo & Caption Credit: U.S. Army / NASA

NASA tested parachutes for the space agency’s Orion spacecraft on December 15, 2017, at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground located in Arizona. This was the fifth test to validate the design of the parachute system for NASA’s crew-rated spacecraft. The evaluation comes after a previous attempt on Dec. 13, 2017, was called off because of aircraft issues.

A model of Orion was ejected from a C-17 aircraft flying at an altitude of approximately 35,000 feet (9,144 meters). The test was not flown to demonstrate how the system would perform under optimal conditions. Instead, one of the parachutes was designed to fail and, in so doing, validate this critical system’s ability to function under a possible failure scenario.

The three main parachutes are meant to slow the Orion spacecraft from a speed of 300 miles (483 kilometers) per hour to 20 miles (32 kilometers) per hour in under 10 minutes. If everything goes according to plan, these chutes will allow for a safe ocean splashdown.

NASA has been developing Orion, with Lockheed Martin as the prime contractor in the production of the spacecraft, since 2004. The vehicle is meant to allow the U.S. space agency to send astronauts to deep space destinations such as the Moon and Mars.

Video courtesy of SciNews



Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

Reader Comments

Some things, like the splashdown, cannot be improved upon. With half the world covered in expanses of ocean there is simply no more efficient way of getting people back to Earth safely. The escape tower is another piece of equipment that is much like the wheel: there is little that can be done to improve such a perfect concept.

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