In Photos: NASA's Orion Space Capsule Parachute Test of 2017

One Big Drop


On March 8, 2017, at the Army Yuma Proving Ground, the Orion Space Capsule Parachute completed a "very successful test ... demonstrating the parachute performance for an ascent abort mode, critical to the safety of the crew for a safe landing," according to a NASA spokesperson. This, the second of eight total tests, will validate the safety of the parachutes for human space flight.

NASA's Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Explained (Infographic)

Karl Tate, contributor

NASA's Orion deep-space capsule is slated to be the go-to spacecraft for missions to an asteroid and beyond. See how NASA's Orion spacecraft will work in this infographic.

Moment of Truth


At 9:45 am on March 8, 2017, the test began with a model Orion capsule was dropped from a C-17 aircraft and lasted a total of 4 minutes. The event tested part of the parachute system that will lower the Orion space capsule safely back to Earth.

Back on Solid Ground


The test simulated an abort sequence during an Orion launch wherein the spacecraft is ejected from atop the rocket and the deployed parachutes would gently guide the capsule to Earth.

Safety First


Orion's parachute system includes 11 parachutes in all. Three forward bay chutes deploy first. Second, two drogue parachutes deploy at around 25,000 feet. Finally three pilot parachutes release at 9,500 feet. These pilot parachutes then deploy three main parachutes.

Drag, Drag, Drag


This detailed system can slow the capsule down to just 20 mph (32 km/h).

Two for Flight


Orion is scheduled to undergo an uncrewed test flight in 2019, but the agency is investigating the possibility of adding a crew to the next Orion flight.



The candy-striped main parachutes bring the capsule securely to Earth.

Air for Brakes


While the space shuttle could glide back down to Earth, the Orion spacecraft requires a parachute system, similar to the Apollo spacecraft.

Floating Gently Down


At the U.S. Army Yuma Proving ground in Arizona, a test of the Orion space capsule's parachute system helped NASA taken another step toward flying Orion with humans on board.

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Christine Lunsford
Producer and Contributing Writer

Christine Lunsford joined the team in 2010 as a freelance producer and later became a contributing writer, covering astrophotography images, astronomy photos and amazing space galleries and more. During her more than 10 years with, oversaw the site's monthly skywatching updates and produced overnight features and stories on the latest space discoveries. She enjoys learning about subjects of all kinds.