As NASA closes the chapter on the Space Shuttle Program, a new era of exploration vehicles is beginning to take off.
Testing began this month at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., in the new Hydro Impact Basin to certify the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) for water landings. The Orion MPCV will carry astronauts into space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and ensure safe re-entry and landing.
Engineers have dropped a 22,000-pound MPCV mockup into the basin. The test item is similar in size and shape to MPCV, but is more rigid so it can withstand multiple drops. Each test has a different drop velocity to represent the MPCV's possible entry conditions during water landings.
The last of three drop tests to verify the new facility is scheduled for the end of this month.
Testing will resume in September with a slightly modified test article that is more representative of the actual MPCV.
The new Hydro Impact Basin is 115 long, 90 feet wide and 20 feet deep. It is located at the west end of Langley's historic Landing and Impact Research Facility, or Gantry, where Apollo astronauts trained for moon walks.
For images and video of the tests, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/langley/exploration/hib.html
NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston manages the Orion MPCV program for the agency. For more information about the program, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/mpcv
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