Emily Outen/Keith Henry
RELEASE : 09-028
09-028: NASA Begins New Phase of Orion Landing Systems Testing

HAMPTON, Va. -- NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., began a new phase of testing today for the Orion crew module, NASA's next generation spacecraft. Now under development, the Orion crew exploration vehicle will carry astronauts to the International Space Station and be part of the space flight system to conduct sustained human exploration of the moon.

The series of tests will evaluate the crew module energy absorbing seat system that will protect the crew under a range of landing conditions after returning from a mission to the space station or the moon.

During this phase of testing, engineers will use a 20,000-pound apparatus called the Crew Impact Attenuation System Test Article. Designed and fabricated at Langley, the test article represents the Orion crew module seat pallet that will accommodate between four and six astronauts. Energy absorbing struts attached to the seat pallet and connected to the crew module structure will reduce loads felt by the crew during landing.

Engineers will perform 10 vertical drop tests at the Landing and Impact Research Facility, a 240-foot-tall steel structure also known as the gantry. The test article will be dropped vertically from as high as 18 feet onto crushable honeycomb material, which is sized to represent a broad range of landing conditions Orion could face.

"The Crew Impact Attenuation System Testing is critical to the safety of future Orion crew members," says Keith Johnson, aerospace engineer at NASA Langley. "When Orion splashes down into the ocean, this system will reduce loads on the astronauts and protect them from injury."

System tests with the initial energy absorbing strut concept will be conducted through June at the gantry test facility at NASA Langley. Additional tests will be conducted in the future to improve overall system performance. Future testing will include alternate energy absorbing designs, flight-like crew seats and instrumented crash test dummies.

Reporters interested in attending a test should contact Emily Outen at 757-864-7022 or Keith Henry at 757-864-6120.

To view a high-resolution image of the full-scale test article, visit:

For more information on NASA's Constellation Program, visit:

NASA news releases are available automatically by sending an e-mail message to with the word "subscribe" in the subject line. You will receive an e-mail asking you to visit a link to confirm the action. To unsubscribe, send an e-mail message to with the word "unsubscribe" in the subject line.

- end -

text-only version of this release