The Orion spacecraft was off-loaded from the well deck of the USS Anchorage Monday night after the amphibious ship docked in San Diego. The ship’s crew along with NASA and Lockheed Martin teams retrieved the spacecraft from the Pacific Ocean at the end of the highly successful Orion flight test that saw the Orion fly about 3,600 miles above Earth in a 4.5-hour evaluation of critical systems and mechanisms including jettison events and the ability of the heat shield to stand up to temperatures of 4,000 degrees F. Next up for Orion, a trip cross-country back to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Orion is expected to be off-loaded from the USS Anchorage today at Naval Base San Diego today following its recovery Friday after splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. The spacecraft is nestled inside the well deck of the amphibious ship during the trek from its splashdown point about 600 miles southwest of San Diego.
The spacecraft then will be transported to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida where engineers will gather more information about Orion’s performance.
Orion’s flight tested many of the systems most critical to crew safety, including key separation events, parachutes and its heat shield. During Orion’s re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, the spacecraft endured speeds of 20,000 mph and temperatures near 4,000 degrees F.
Orion has been safely recovered and is inside the USS Anchorage. After the crew module splashed down in the Pacific Ocean earlier today, a team of NASA, U.S. Navy and Lockheed Martin personnel attached hardware to the spacecraft, allowing them to move it into the ship’s well deck and nestling Orion onto several bumpers on the bottom of the deck. Over the next several days, the team will perform an initial check out of Orion while the Anchorage transports the spacecraft back to shore. It is expected to be off loaded at Naval Base San Diego on Monday.
Read our feature about today’s Orion Flight Test and what it means for the future of human space exploration. http://go.nasa.gov/1FUMIqL
Fresh from the conclusion of the first-ever flight test of NASA’s Orion spacecraft, some of the managers behind the flawless mission gave an early indication of what it took for Orion to be successful and what the spacecraft’s two-orbit, 4.5-hour means for its goals to explore deep space and make a human journey to Mars.
“We as a species are meant to press humanity further into the solar system and this is a first step,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Directorate. “What a tremendous team effort.”
Orion launched this morning at 7:05 a.m. EST to begin what would prove to be a perfect flight. Riding atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy, the largest rocket in the American inventory, Orion flew to an altitude of 3,604 miles on its second orbit and plunged into Earth’s atmosphere at 20,000 mph before slowing down, releasing its parachutes and landing gently in the Pacific Ocean within sight of NASA and U.S. Navy recovery teams.
“It is hard to have a better day than today,” said Mark Geyer, Orion program manager. “The upper stage put us right where we wanted to be and some of those pictures where you could see the frame of the window, you don’t feel like you’re watching like a satellite, you feel like an astronaut yourself.”
Orion did not carry any people into space during this flight, but is designed to take astronauts on deep space missions in the future. It became the first spacecraft designed for humans to leave low-Earth orbit since the Apollo 17 mission, the last moon landing by NASA.
“We’re already working on the next capsule,” said Mike Hawes, Lockheed Martin’s Orion program manager, the company that built Orion and operated the flight for NASA. “We’ll learn a tremendous amount from what we did today.”
Orion did not carry any people into space, but is designed to take humans on deep space missions in the future. It became the first human-rated spacecraft to leave low-Earth orbit since the Apollo 17 mission, the last moon landing by NASA.
“We’re already working on the next capsule,” said Mike Hawes, Lockheed Martin’s Orion program manager, the company that built Orion and operated the flight for NASA. “We’ll learn a tremendous amount from what we did today.
“Today was a great day for America,” said Flight Director Mike Sarafin from his console at Mission Control in Houston. “While this mission was unmanned, we were all aboard Orion.”
NASA TV will air a post-mission news conference at 1:30 p.m. EST.
Crews on small boats working from Navy recovery ships are gathering up the main chutes following Orion’s successful splashdown.