Engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., will conduct nine water-impact drop tests to evaluate the safety of the splash down when the Orion spacecraft returns from deep-space missions and touches down on Earth. Onboard will be two test dummies wired up to Diversified Technical Systems (DTS) data acquisition systems.
The DAS data will help NASA prepare Orion for its next mission, Exploration Mission-1. During Exploration Mission-1, the uncrewed Orion spacecraft will launch atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, travel more than 40,000 miles beyond the moon and return at speeds up to 25,000 mph.
During water-impact testing, engineers at Langley will mimic various scenarios by dropping a mockup of Orion, coupled with the heat shield from the spacecraft’s first flight, into Langley’s 20-ft.-deep Hydro Impact Basin. This will help NASA evaluate how the spacecraft may behave when landing under its parachutes in different wind conditions and wave heights.
The DTS systems are small and light enough to fit on-board and run autonomously to collect both structural and crew safety data. Langley previously conducted splash tests with DTS data recorders inside a less sophisticated capsule mockup, but this is the first time it will assess the higher fidelity Orion ground test article.
The instrumented test dummies onboard, one representing a 105-lb woman and the other a 220-lb man, will help assess the impact on different-sized astronauts. The dummies are the same type used in the automotive industry for front collisions. Each dummy was lifted and then manually installed into the interior of the capsule. Tiny sensors inside the test dummies will help NASA understand the loads the crew could experience when returning from deep space destinations.
Before testing begins, engineers will apply a waterproof coat to the capsule and complete final sensor checks with a DTS data acquisition system. The capsule itself is wired with sensors that let engineers collect data during the water-impact testing.
NASA has also used DTS data acquisition systems to capture test data on helicopter hard landings, test Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs), and even onboard the LDSD-low density supersonic decelerator in the outer stratosphere.