It may have been more of a plop than a giant splash, but NASA’s latest impact test for its next-generation Orion spacecraft will nevertheless provide engineers with plenty of useful data as it continues to refine the vehicle for use in the upcoming Artemis moon missions.
Taking place at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, on Tuesday, April 6, the latest water impact test involved dropping a 14,000-pound test version of Orion into a specially built Hydro Impact Basin filled with 1 million gallons of water.
NASA started its latest round of impact tests for Orion a couple of weeks ago, but Tuesday’s was the first to be streamed live by the space agency. You can watch a recording of it below:
3…2…1… release! ????
An exact duplicate of the @NASA_Orion spacecraft makes a splash as it is dropped from 7 feet above the Hydro Impact Basin at @NASA_Langley. The data will be evaluated to prepare for splashdown of a crewed Orion for #Artemis II: pic.twitter.com/srt8D8rmug
— NASA (@NASA) April 6, 2021
The dunkings will enable engineers to better understand how the capsule will respond when it lands in the Pacific Ocean at the end of a space mission. It will also offer data on how a landing will treat the astronauts inside the spacecraft when it hits the water.
Additionally, the process is a vital part of Orion’s formal qualification program to fulfill structural design and requirement verification ahead of its first lunar mission.
When completed, Orion will be able to carry up to six astronauts and operate in space for up to 21 days undocked and up to six months docked.
Further preparation included a recent full-length hot fire test of the core stage of its next-generation Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will lift the Orion capsule into space. You can watch a video showing the rocket’s awesome power.
NASA is aiming to launch its first Artemis lunar mission later this year. Artemis I will perform an uncrewed flyby of the moon to test the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft as an integrated system. Artemis II will take the same route, but with a crew traveling on board.
The highly anticipated Artemis III mission will put the first woman and next man on the lunar surface in what would be the first astronaut moon landing since 1972. NASA is looking at 2024 for the ambitious mission, though at the current time a delay is looking likely.