Although there are doubts about Constellation, and NASA recently announced a “plan B” launch option for a return trip to the Moon, Orion development continues as planned. Next up is the development of the Orion shock absorbers, intended to take the sting out of the return capsule’s landing.
Tests are currently being carried out at the Landing and Impact Research Facility in NASA’s Langley Research Center on the seat pallet that will protect the Orion astronauts’ from the shock of touch-down. It is hoped Orion will be a land-anywhere capsule, including land and water. In fact, I am a little bit excited about the planned landing spot in the Pacific Ocean, not far from Catalina Island, off the Los Angeles coastline. That’s just down the road and a small swim from me!
To test the pallet and its “energy-absorbing struts,” the 20,000-pound test article is dropped 18 feet onto a crushable honeycomb material designed to simulate different landing surfaces.
The seat shock absorbers won’t only be used for landing, it is hoped they will mitigate much of the launch vibrations caused by the Ares I crew launch vehicle. These tests are a result of studies of how much vibration crew ...