Starliner and Orion drop tests

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

The competition heats up: NASA and Boeing have begun drop tests on land and water respectively of their Orion and Starliner manned capsules.

Both sets of tests are taking place at Langley. With Orion they are dropping the mockup in water to test how it will respond to a variety of circumstances. With Starliner they have finished the water drop tests and have begun drop tests on land.


  • Greg the Geologist

    Since Boeing is a prime contractor on Orion (I believe), what is the difference between the Orion and Starliner capsules? Are they variants of the same craft, or completely different designs?

  • Greg the Geologist: Boeing is not the prime contractor for Orion. Lockheed Martin holds that contract.

  • Edward

    Greg the Geologist asked: “what is the difference between the Orion and Starliner capsules? Are they variants of the same craft, or completely different designs?”

    Orion is designed for a crew of four and longer flights that go deeper into space. Starliner has no Orion heritage, and is designed for seven people for only 2-1/2 days, or for seven months when it is docked to the ISS.

  • Localfluff

    Edward, “Wiki says 60 hours, five days, but that’s maybe with a minimum crew. That’s still not enough to round the Moon. Maybe it could be upgraded, I suppose it depends on the service module. I see a quote by Elon Musk ten years ago claiming that Dragon will have a 30-man-day life-support system. If SpaceX has planned to gradually upgrade its Dragon as it has its Falcon, it might become Moon capable. I bet that Elon Musk himself will be an early passenger.

  • Gealon

    Wait wait wait wait… What do they mean they’ve “begun” drop tests? I seem to recall seeing drop tests of the Orion test capsule showing up for years now on Nasa TV. I remember they even had this giant trapeze setup so they could skid the capsule into the water sideways. So are they that desperate to maintain interest that they had to take years old news and recycle it now? Or have I just hallucinated the past few years of Nasa TV?

  • Edward

    Good catch. The Orion article says, “Thursday’s drop was the ninth in a series of 10 tests taking place at Langley’s Landing and Impact Research Facility.”

    This is clearly not a beginning.

    The Starliner article says, “Before beginning the land test series, the team wrapped up the last of 14 abort water landing scenarios at Langley’s 20-foot-deep Hydro Impact Basin.”

    For Starliner, this is the beginning of drop tests on land, but several water tests have also been done. It seems that Langley’s Hydro Impact Basin has been busy for the past few years.

  • Gealon: My wording might have caused confusion. Starliner has begun land drop tests. Orion has begun water drop tests. This was not to imply that no previous drop tests had been done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *