YUMA, Ariz. — A NASA team is in Yuma to test the parachutes of the Orion spacecraft at the Yuma Proving Ground Army installation.
The team from Houston's Johnson Space Center has been working at the Jacobs Hangar at the Yuma airport in preparation for the testing on Wednesday at the Yuma Proving Ground, the Sun reported.
"The Yuma Proving Grounds are the premier parachute test range in the United States, and they have all the facilities we need," said Carol Evan, a NASA test manager. "They have cameras, airplanes, drop zone, safety, all the people we need."
The Orion spacecraft is expected to carry as many as four astronauts deeper into space than anyone has ever gone before.
Before it launches, NASA is testing its parachutes — which are meant to reduce the spacecraft's speed from 300 to 20 mph (483 to 32 kph) in less than 10 minutes — to ensure a safe splashdown in the ocean during a real mission.
During the test, a model capsule will be dropped from an altitude of 35,000 feet (10,668 meters).
The simulation will test what could happen if one of the three main parachutes fails to open. It will be the fifth out in a series of eight tests. Each test costs $1 million, Evans said.
Testing is the only way parachutes can be certified, she added.
"Some of them can be certified through analysis or simulations, but (you've) really got to put out the parachutes, she said. "The inflation and deployment cannot be modeled, so it has to be tested," Evans said.
A replica of the same size and weight as the actual spacecraft will be used in the testing since the real thing is worth several billion dollars.