Most Viewed Stories
Another good day for NASA at YPG
The "lawn dart" has landed.
NASA engineers conducted another successful airdrop test this week of Orion space capsule parachutes at Yuma Proving Ground. This time, instead of using a test object that looks like the capsule that NASA hopes will eventually take astronauts into space, scientists dropped a missile-shaped object.
The Parachute Compartment Drop Test Vehicle (PCDTV), nicknamed the “lawn dart,” made its journey toward the desert floor from a C-130 Tuesday morning.
The focus of the test was on the drogue chutes, the first set of parachutes in the landing sequence. Engineers aimed to expose the chutes to maximum dynamic pressure, like what they might face when returning from space – for an idea of dynamic pressure, think of that pressure you feel when you stick your hand out of the window or sunroof of a fast-moving car, said Stu McClung, one of the project engineers dealing with landing systems.
The cargo plane dropped the PCDTV from an altitude of 25,000 feet and the drogue chutes opened at about 20,000 feet. They were followed by the pilot chutes and then the main chutes.
The 20,000-pound PCDTV is similar in weight to the capsule-shaped test article, but it's hardier – thus, cheaper to repair – and of different dimensions, making it more cost-effective to include in the testing series. It was dropped from a C-130, while the capsule is dropped from a larger C-17.
Tuesday's test was the 6th in a planned series of 18. The last test at YPG was in July, using the capsule test vehicle and studying what would happen if one of the three main parachutes prematurely opened and inflated too quickly, and what effect it would have on the other two chutes. The next test will be in November, also using the capsule.
The Orion program is the next generation of space exploration, replacing the shuttle program. In the nearer term, the Yuma tests are leading up to the planned 2014 orbit flight test of an unmanned Orion craft some 3,600 miles above Earth's surface.
Hillary Davis can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6857. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSHillaryDavis or on Twitter at @YSHillaryDavis.