The ninth and final water landing test of the Orion crew capsule was performed earlier today at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. The 18,000 pound mockup splashed into Langley’s Hydro Impact Basin, wrapping up a series of drop testing that began in July 2011 to simulate various water landing scenarios.
Langley’s Hydro Impact Basin is 115 feet long, 90 feet wide and 20 feet deep (for perspective, an Olympic-size pool is 164 feet by 82 feet). The test, meant to simulate the deployment of all parachutes attached to the Orion capsule at a high impact pitch of 43 degrees, represented a landing scenario that is unlikely to occur during actual vehicle operation. It represented a “worst case landing for an abort scenario in rough seas” according to a NASA press release. The test was designed to validate models and simulation results of how the spacecraft would respond in a similar real-world landing scenario. The capsule was traveling at approximately 47 mph before impacting the water in the basin and rolling over. Similar to the Apollo spacecraft, which also returned to Earth via water landing, the Orion capsule will have an on-board system capable of righting the vehicle in the ocean.