After each test, engineers at Lockheed Martin measure the impact of the load on crash-test dummies inside the spacecraft and alter the altitude of the vehicle according.
Orion comes equipped with an impact attenuation system that adjusts for each crew member’s body weight. Because the Orion will be taking crews much further into space than previous models, engineers had to account for the effects of space “deconditioning” on an astronaut’s body’s ability to handle impact.
While similar to the Apollo model in shape and size, the Orion is far more technologically advanced. The side orientation of the capsule comes from the real-life design scenario of how to best land the shuttle if one parachute was lost. The forces that hit a spacecraft at splashdown determine the design of more than half of its structure, according to project chief engineer Jim Corliss.
Orion will also uniquely sport a glass cockpit with digital control systems. The capsule will be compatible with the “autodocking” features of the International Space Station.
According to NASA, the Orion capsule would hit the water around 17 miles per hour under ideal conditions. Thursday’s test of the 7.2 ton mockup hit at 20 miles per hour.
The next unmanned Orion craft is set to deploy in 2018.
If you don’t have time to watch the full video, the test comes at the very end: