NASA Wants To Know If You Spot Orion Traveling Across The US
December 14, 2013

Orion Spacecraft Making Its Way Across The US

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A test version of NASA’s Orion spacecraft is hitting the road for the next few weeks, making its way across the country for recovery tests off the coast of California.

The mockup capsule departed NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., on Wednesday, and will travel through Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before arriving at Naval Base San Diego in California early next month. Once there, it will be used in February to support tests simulating the recovery of Orion following its return from space, NASA said.

Updates will be issued on Twitter @NASA_Orion, and anyone who spots the capsule is encouraged to share their photos at hashtag #SpotOrion.

The 18,000-pound mockup, called a boilerplate test article, has already been used in a number of tests to ensure that Orion will be ready for its first mission – Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) – scheduled for next September. The mission will take Orion to 3,600 miles above the Earth’s surface before returning it at speeds of up to 20,000 miles per hour for a splash landing in the Pacific Ocean.

During the recovery tests in San Diego, the capsule will be set adrift in open and unstable waters, providing NASA and the Navy a chance to recover the mockup and bring it into the well deck of the USS San Diego. While deployed, the team will seek out numerous sea states in which to practice the capsule recovery procedures. This will help build a knowledge base of how the mockup recovery differs in calm and rough seas, and of the true physical limits of the article.

The mockup is a full-size replica of the Orion spacecraft currently being constructed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. NASA and the Navy previously used the mockup in August to practice a stationary calm water recovery test, in which the spacecraft was set adrift off the coast of Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia and recovered into the docked well deck of the USS Arlington. The mockup was also dropped from 25 feet above the water of Langley’s Hydro Impact Basin to simulate different splashdown scenarios.

Image 2 (below): This map shows the route the Orion mockup will travel through on its way to its final destination in California. Credit: Google Earth