The beautiful final landing we watched yesterday was a last in more ways than one — with the exception of a couple tourist space planes, next-generation spacecraft will not land on runways. Instead they’ll splash down in the ocean a la Apollo, Mercury and Gemini.
NASA just completed building a million-gallon pool to test these splashes, and managers have been dunking a test model of the space agency’s next crew vehicle.
The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle “boilerplate test article,” which weighs 22,700 pounds, is attached to a special gantry — think of a person swinging on a rope out over a lake — and dropped into the Hydro Impact Basin. In the video below, it was going about 24 mph at impact.
The $1.7 million Hydro Impact Basin will help prove that the Orion capsule can withstand a splashdown. Other future space capsules will also be tested in this manner.
NASA is planning additional drop tests at higher speeds throughout the summer.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.