December 20, 2012 - NASA completed the latest in
a series of parachute tests for its Orion
spacecraft Thursday at the U.S. Army Yuma
Proving Ground in southwestern Arizona, marking
another step toward a first flight test in 2014.
The test verified Orion can land safely even if
one of its two drogue parachutes does not open
The "Orion" Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) is
a planned beyond low earth orbit manned
spacecraft that is being built by Lockheed
Martin for NASA based on designs and tests
already completed as part of the now-cancelled
Constellation program, development for which
began in 2005 as the Crew Exploration Vehicle.
The MPCV was announced by NASA on 24 May 2011.
The MPCV's debut unmanned multi-hour test
flight, known as Exploration Flight Test 1
(EFT-1), is scheduled for a launch aboard a
Delta IV Heavy rocket in 2014. The first manned
mission is expected to take place after 2020.
Orion will take humans farther into space than
ever before, but one of the most challenging
things the multipurpose vehicle will do is bring
its crew home safely. Because it will return
from greater distances, Orion will reenter the
Earth's atmosphere at speeds of more than 20,000
mph. After re-entry, the parachutes are all that
will lower the capsule carrying astronauts back
"The mockup vehicle landed safely in the desert
and everything went as planned," said Chris
Johnson, a NASA project manager for Orion's
parachute assembly system. "We designed the
parachute system so nothing will go wrong, but
plan and test as though something will so we can
make sure Orion is the safest vehicle ever to
take humans to space."