A big boom sounded across NASA Langley Research Center's Landing and Impact Research Facility, also known as the gantry, as the pyros fired releasing the 22,000-pound (9,979 kg) test article from its tethers. Seconds later it splashed into the new Hydro Impact Basin -- an oversized pool that for the next few years will be the testing bed to certify future space vehicles for safe water landings.
Despite the temperature hovering near 100 degrees (37.8 °C) and it being close to the end of the work day, enthusiastic NASA employees and engineers involved in the testing waited along the perimeter of the gantry to witness the second drop of the Orion MPCV test article.Test engineer Robin Hardy is typically anxious before a test, especially when it comes to the unknown.
"I felt myself straining to hear our test operator say that the data systems were 'triggered,'" Hardy said. "Anything could happen, but seeing the test article hit the mark, come to rest right side up inside the pool for this high energy drop -- the relief was palpable. You can't help but cheer and hoot and clap and know that in the end it was all worth it."All month gantry technicians and engineers have worked 12-hour days to make sure the drop tests remained on schedule.