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Lockheed Martin Scores Success With Landing Technology

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Farnborough UK (SPX) Jul 21, 2004
Lockheed Martin has successfully performed a series of drop tests at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground in Yuma, Ariz., to validate soft landing technology that can be used for astronaut crew capsules upon return to Earth.

The technology makes use of an array of dual airbags that, upon ground impact, releases air from the outer bags of the system, allowing the capsule to settle softly to the ground on its inner airbags.

"This technology could be used in a number of ways, one of which would help ensure a safe landing for our astronauts in new crew exploration vehicles that are being considered for the future," said Michael Coats, vice president and deputy of Space Exploration at Lockheed Martin Space Systems.

"These successful drop tests provide us and NASA with solid data on airbag and landing technology that could be very instrumental in future crew capsule systems. Whatever the requirements will be for a new crew vehicle, the safety of our astronauts continues to be the number one priority in every design we are considering."

The drop tests were conducted June 24-25 under Lockheed Martin funding to demonstrate technology and risk reduction for space exploration. The 5,216 kg/11,500 lb capsule mass simulator was designed using the mass and center of gravity properties of astronaut crew capsules that are being considered for the future.

During a series of tests, the capsule simulator was dropped from various heights and inclinations. The airbag system performed as expected with each impact, demonstrating that the modeling techniques were right on target.

Instead of bouncing upon impact, the crew capsule mass simulator gently settled to Earth after each drop on a "pillow" of airbags. Instrumentation indicated that the short-duration deceleration forces would be very benign for both spacecraft and crewmembers.

"Unlike the Apollo program that limited the capsules to water landings, the technology that we are testing today could allow a future crew exploration vehicle to safely return the crew to land, providing more flexibility in landing the crew and making it more affordable, as well," added Coats.

Lockheed Martin will continue to test the airbag and landing technology, including future airborne drop tests, to demonstrate nominal and abort reentry capability. The tests utilize an airbag system provided by Irvin Aerospace of Anaheim, California.

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Gallup Survey Shows Americans Support New Plan For Space Exploration
Cape Canaveral FL (SPX) Jul 20, 2004
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