NASA Drops the Orion Capsule Into the Water, Watches It Go


By the end of this year, the highly-anticipated Artemis program will kick off with the launch of the first mission in what is expected to be a very long series. Artemis I is how it's called, and it will not involve any astronauts boarding the Orion spacecraft. Come Artemis II in 2023, things will, however, change.

The hardware that will support the program mostly comprises the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion capsule. Mind you, whereas the former is in its final testing stages, the capsule still has some way to go before actually being declared safe for astronauts.

The capsule has been designed to support a crew of four people in a 316-cubic-feet (8.9-cubic-meters) environment. The entire Orion assembly comprises the service module, the crew module, and the launch abort system, and the crew module is designed to bring the astronauts back home safely.

Unlike the Boeing Starliner capsule, which has been designed as the first spacecraft capable of landing on hard soil, Orion will use the classic NASA approach, and it will drop into the sea. But before it gets to do that for real, the agency has to be sure it is up for the task.

Earlier in March, the North American space agency announced it had begun a series of four water impact drop tests at the Landing and Impact Research Facility Hydro Impact Basin at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. The tests are meant to simulate a few landing scenarios as close to real-world conditions as possible and determine what the crew may have to face during those rough few seconds when the capsule hits the water.

The tests are mandatory for the spaceship’s structural design and requirement verification and will have to be finalized by the time the Artemis II mission takes off.