Data recorders and software
Diversified Technical Systems (DTS)
Seal Beach, CA
It’s no simple task to travel 3,600 miles into space, blaze back through Earth’s atmosphere at 20,000 mph with temperatures approaching 4,000 °F, and then splash-land into the Pacific Ocean. That’s why NASA spent three years dropping the 18,000-pound mockup of the Orion space capsule into a special test pool wired with hundreds of sensors, strain gauges, and accelerometers to measure stresses and structural integrity, as well as the safety of future astronauts onboard.
Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to destinations not yet explored by humans, including an asteroid and Mars. In a series of splashdown tests at the Hydro Impact Basin at Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA, NASA relied on DTS data recorders and software to capture the action as they simulated different water landing scenarios that Orion could face when it splashed down into the Pacific on its inaugural test flight last December.
The data recording systems are small and lightweight enough to fit onboard and run autonomously during testing. The black-box-type recorders are miniature data recorders designed specifically to survive harsh impacts (like crashing and blasting).
Following a perfect launch and more than four hours in Earth’s orbit, Orion descended under three massive main parachutes and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean 600 miles southwest of San Diego. During the unmanned test, Orion traveled twice through the Van Allen belt, where it experienced periods of intense radiation, and reached an altitude of 3,600 miles above Earth.
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