NASA plans to make a splash today (April 6) by dropping a test version of its Orion crew capsule into a big pool, and you can watch all the action live online.
The 14,000-lb. (6,400 kilograms) test capsule will plunge into the Hydro Impact Basin at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, at 1:45 p.m. EDT (1845 GMT), and you can watch it live here on Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV.
Today’s drop test is part of a series of tests NASA began March 23 “to finalize computer models for loads and structures prior to the Artemis II flight test, NASA’s first mission with crew aboard Orion,” NASA officials said in a statement.
NASA’s Orion Crew and Service Module manager Debbie Korth will provide live commentary during the test on NASA TV, along with Jacob Putnam, a data analyst at Langley.
Photos: Astronauts test Orion spacecraft exit methods in the Gulf of Mexico
The first planned mission with NASA’s Orion capsule will be an uncrewed test flight called Artemis 1, currently scheduled to launch in late 2021 on a Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket — the rocket NASA plans to use for all Orion missions. The real Orion capsule that will fly on Artemis 1 arrived in Florida in March 2020 to begin preparations for the big debut.
Artemis 2, the first crewed Orion mission that will carry astronauts on a loop around the moon, is currently scheduled to launch in 2023, followed by the Artemis 3 crewed lunar landing mission in 2024.
Whether NASA will stick to that schedule under the new presidential administration — President Trump in 2017 directed NASA to land on the moon by 2024 — remains to be seen. Both Orion and SLS have faced numerous delays in their development, the latest being a result of shutdowns amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to several delays, the pandemic is expected to cost NASA $3 billion overall.
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