YUMA, Ariz. (13 On Your Side) - A vehicle carrying the Orion Space Capsule called a K-Loader, experienced a mechanical failure on an airstrip at the Marine Corps Air Station, delaying the flight scheduled to arrive at the Yuma Proving Ground Monday. NASA Officials tell 13 On Your Side that the next test drop for Orion will be delayed one day, and will now take place on Thursday.
But, this test drop is more challenging than the previous test drops that NASA and the Army have conducted for Orion, There is a new component to be tested, an aluminum cover, called a forward bay cover, that now lines the top of the 10.5 ton test capsule. Carol Evans, test manager for Orion says this will be the first test drop where more than one component will be tested at the same time. "Previously we were only testing the parachutes. Now were adding a new system to the test flow to demonstrate it before the Orion launch they are doing in the Fall of 2014." says Evans.
This will also be the first test drop where Orion will have its full array of parachutes, capable of slowing it down as it enters Earth's atmosphere at 23,000 miles per hour to around 23 mph. But before they can drop the capsule for the tenth time, there's another test, that was scheduled to happen Monday, that Evans says is critical to make sure they can drop the capsule safely by plane with its new equipment.
"Because we introduced some new avionics to operate the forward bay cover, we have to do a combined test with the airplane and the new systems to make sure it doesn't affect the aircraft." says Evans. She says the previous drops, which cost about a million dollars apiece, have gone off without a hitch. "We've been able to meet our test objectives, and our vehicles have survived so that we can re-use them and were collecting more data than our analysts can digest it." Evans says.
The Orion will still be on schedule for a unmanned space flight in 2014 as long as it can get the test drop completed by Thursday at the latest.
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