Houston- Engineers have started evaluations on the operation of the Orion spacecraft with a team of suited astronauts. Researchers will get a better understanding on how the spacecraft acts on deep space missions.

NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston  is currently evaluating the functionality of crews inside a mockup version of the Orion Spacecraft. The crew will simulate to work the rotational hand controller and cursor control device inside the newly designed spacesuits.

The Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle was originally part of NASA’s Constellation Program, which is no longer an active NASA program. Credit: NASA

The advanced crew escape suit, also known as the “Pumpkin Suit” is a full pressure suit used by space shuttle crews for the ascent and entry portions of the rocket’s blastoff.  The pumpkin suit gets its name for the bright color in their fabric and is direct descendants from the U.S Air Force suits used for high altitude flights.

The suits are designed by the David Clark Company and are equipped with full pressure allowing astronauts to be safe and secure while acting with freedom in zero gravity conditions.

This mockup trials in the Orion spacecraft will allow engineers and researchers to fully observe the behavior of the suits in the manually driven spacecraft, also, it will help in the developments of strategic plans in the case of an emergency.

The rotational hand controller and the cursor control device are used to operate Orion’s spacecraft control system, the crew will drive and interact with the system during deep space missions in the future.

Astronauts Chris Cassidy and Heather Paul were part of the crew members being evaluated in the mockup trials.

The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) is a spacecraft designed to carry a crew of four members to destinations beyond low Earth orbit. The vehicle will help human exploration of asteroids and of Mars and it is expected to be launched on NASA’s Space Launch System at the Kennedy Space Center.

“I thought it was great, as a mechanical engineer getting inside the suits is part of a highlight in my career here at NASA. We are working on the designs for the next exploration vehicle  and getting into the vehicle and the suits, is a really important part of our testing” Said Astronaut Heather Paul in a statement to NASA’s communications.

Currently, the Orion spacecraft is being evaluated in different aspects to ensure its capability in harsh space conditions. Earlier this year, NASA announced Orion’s milestones for 2016 that included the testing of Orion’s pressure vessel to help astronauts gain a  more sealed environment in the capsule.

Other tests include evaluation of the new acoustic technology called Direct Field Acoustic Testing, testings of the structural integrity of the spacecraft and preparation of astronauts for deep space environments.

Source: NASA