NASA to Test Orion Spacecraft Parachutes Ahead of Moon Mission Today: Watch It Live

Orion spacecraft's parachute
NASA tested the Orion spacecraft's parachutes March 16, 2018, at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. (Image credit: James Blair/NASA)

NASA will run its final parachute test for the Orion spacecraft today (Sept. 12) as the agency readies Orion for its first uncrewed mission around the moon.

NASA will start coverage of the test at 10:15 a.m. EDT (1415 GMT) on NASA Television and the Orion Facebook page. Viewers can ask questions on social media using the hashtag #AskNASA. You can watch the test here on, courtesy of NASA TV. Several NASA employees will participate, including Orion program manager Mark Kirasich, astronaut Randy Bresnik and Orion parachute engineers, according to a statement from NASA.

During the procedure at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, an Orion test capsule will be dropped from a C-17 aircraft from more than 6 miles (9.5 km) high. The test is expected to check out the fitness of 11 parachutes, as well as the mortars and pyrotechnic devices that are supposed to slow the capsule for a safe descent to Earth. [Orion: NASA's Next Spaceship in Pictures]

"To date, such tests have evaluated Orion's parachute performance during normal landing sequences, several failure scenarios and a variety of potential aerodynamic conditions to ensure the safe return of astronauts from deep-space missions," NASA said in the statement.

Orion's first test flight is expected no earlier than 2019, when the spacecraft — riding on top of the Space Launch System — will be launched toward lunar orbit for a two-week mission. While this test flight will be uncrewed, NASA could eventually use Orion for trips beyond low Earth orbit. The agency is working on plans for a Lunar Orbiting Platform Gateway (which deep-space station in orbit around the moon) and has also talked about bringing people to Mars.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: