American Society of Civil Engineers

Assessment of Soil Modeling Capability for Orion Contingency Land Landing

by Ernest Heymsfield, P.E., (corresponding author), M.ASCE, (Associate Professor, Dept. of Civil Engineering, Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701. E-mail:, Edwin L. Fasanella, (Senior Research Fellow, National Institute of Aerospace, Hampton, VA 23681. E-mail:, Robin C. Hardy, (Aerospace Research Engineer, Structural Dynamics, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA 23681. E-mail:, and Richard L. Boitnott, (Aerospace Research Engineer, Structural Dynamics, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA 23681. E-mail:

Journal of Aerospace Engineering, Vol. 25, No. 1, January 2012, pp. 125-131, (doi:

     Access full text
     Purchase Subscription
     Permissions for Reuse  

Document type: Journal Paper
Abstract: Twenty-one swing tests were conducted at the NASA Langley Landing and Impact Research (LandIR) Facility in 2006 to evaluate Orion boilerplate ground landings as a function of impact velocity and pitch. In this article, experimental results from two capsule swing tests and three vertical drop tests are compared with numerical results. The numerical results were derived by using the nonlinear dynamic finite-element code LS-DYNA. The swing tests were conducted at 0° and -15° pitch, impacting a level soil mat at a 17.68 m/ s (58 fps) horizontal velocity and 1.52 m/ s (5 fps) vertical impact velocity. Three vertical drop tests were conducted with the boilerplate capsule at 0° pitch. Each test was conducted to measure the impact on a level soil mat with varying impact velocities: 3.66 m/ s, 7.31 m/ s, and 10.97 m/ s (12, 24, and 36 fps). Results of the study show the potential of using numerical modeling for vertical drop test and swing test simulations. Discrepancies between the numerical and experimental simulations primarily stem from the nonuniformity and complexity of soil behavior.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Soil properties
Finite element method

Author Keywords:
Crashworthiness testing
Swing test
Vertical drop test
Soil modeling