IndyCar goes to space (sort of) with NASA’s Orion capsule

source: AP
NASA’s Orion capsule – which features design help from IndyCar data – made a splashy return to Earth today. Photo: AP/NASA.

It’s always interesting to see on-track technology utilized in off-track means, but this particular instance is certainly noteworthy.

NASA recently marked a successful test flight of the unmanned Orion capsule, which landed in the Pacific Ocean earlier today after soaring to a height of 3,600 feet and two orbits of Earth. And IndyCar helped play a role in making it happen.

As the series website explains, NASA engineers utilized IndyCar data from blind incidents dating back to the 2003 season to help them design a passenger restraint system for Orion crew members in the event of increased accelerations.

Part of that data includes information from crash data recorders on the cars and ear accelerometers used by drivers.

While the test flight capsule was unmanned, NASA hopes that a manned Orion capsule can one day bring astronauts to places such as an asteroid and eventually, Mars.

IndyCar director of engineering Jeff Horton notes that the seating system in a capsule like Orion has several similarities to those of the 230+ mph open-wheel machines.

“…NASA’s previous space capsules had a reclined seating system, so the G-forces were not unlike a rearward impact for an IndyCar,” he said in the above linked story. “Data from crash box measures how hard the car hits, so it takes into account any systems the car may or may not use – the rear attenuator, the safer wall, the seat.

“Also included in data is the angle of impact because it makes a difference when designing the seating system whether you crash backward or forward. Accelerometer data can be overlaid so we can see how the safety systems, which are the helmet, the headrest the forward head restraint work.”

Other organizations such as the U.S. Air Force also apply IndyCar data toward the creation of helmets, seats, and harnesses.

For more on Orion, head on over to NBC News.

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing

Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”