On Tuesday of this week NASA's CPAS team loaded their capsule shaped Parachute Test Vehicle (PTV) onto a C-17 at Yuma International Airport. The PVT is used to test the NASA Orion Capsule Parachute Assembly System (CPAS) full scale re-entry parachutes.
The C-17 is scheduled today to drop the PTV, also known as a boilerplate test article, which represents the Orion capsule, from an altitude of 25,000 feet above the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Grounds. The drogue chutes will be deployed between 15,000 and 20,000 feet, followed by the pilot parachutes, which then deploy the main landing parachutes. This particular drop test will examine how Orion capsule wake would affect the performance of the parachute system.
Orion will carry astronauts deeper into space than ever before, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and ensure a safe re-entry and landing. "Words cannot describe how awesome it is to witness the future of space travel right from our airport," said Gen Grosse, Corporate Account Manager at the Yuma International Airport.
The Orion capsule wake is a disturbance of the air flow behind the vehicle. Parachutes optimally perform in clean air, but a wake of disturbed air flow can reduce the drag performance expected of a parachute, and in some cases can cause a parachute to collapse. The Orion parachutes are designed with the wake in consideration, and this test will allow testing in a full scale environment.
According to Grosse, NASA teams have had a presence in Yuma for the past two and a half weeks, putting the capsule together so that everything is loaded and packed appropriately. NASA has been using the defense contractor hangar at the Yuma airport as a base of operations to develop the MPCV parachute assembly system since late 2009.
NASA considers Orion the “flagship" of the nation's next-generation space fleet pushing the envelope of human spaceflight far beyond low Earth orbit.
Update: 18.07.2012 / 23.00 MESZ
Orion Parachute Drop Test, July 18
A C-17 plane dropped a test version of Orion from an altitude of 25,000 feet above the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground in southwestern Arizona on July 18, 2012. This test was the second to use an Orion craft that mimics the full size and shape of the spacecraft.