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NASA tests Orion parachutes

NASA has completed maximum load testing on parachutes for the Lockheed Martin Orion capsule, simulating a reentry from deep space.

The tests were conducted using a dart-like test vehicle dropped from 25,000ft, allowing the parachutes to deploy at speeds that could not be simulated using the more blunt Orion. The parachutes successfully deployed in all drop tests, giving programme officials greater confidence in their use on the first Orion mission, tentatively scheduled for late 2014.

The 2014 flight will see the capsule launched on a parabolic flight into space, reentering the atmosphere at a velocity approaching that of an actual return from deep space.

The 2014 test will use a United Launch Alliance Delta IV in lieu of the intended Space Launch System (SLS), a more powerful vehicle that will not fly until 2017 at the earliest.

NASA did not immediately respond to questions.

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