The U.S. Navy and NASA successfully wrapped up the second practice round of retrieving the Orion spacecraft from the sea. The tests were conducted between August 1-4 off the coast of Baja California, Mexico. NASA is developing Orion to take humans farther in the space than ever before. It will take astronauts to asteroid and, eventually, to Mars.

NASA

NASA’s December and 2017 Orion missions will be crew-less

The space agency has scheduled the spacecraft’s first flight test in December. It will blast off from Cape Canaveral on top of a Delta IV Heavy rocket. It will allow researchers to study Orion’s re-entry systems such as heat shield and parachutes. The capsule will detach from the central core booster in the low-Earth orbit. The upper booster will then thrust the capsule into orbit before lifting it to 3,600 miles. That mission will splash down off the coast of Baja California.

For now, the test spacecraft is at the port of Los Angeles after recovery exercises. Both the December mission as well as the 2017 mission will be crew-less. All these tests are part a long-term goal to take humans to Mars and asteroids, and bring them back safely. Larry Price, deputy program manager for the Orion at Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT), said they are building a crewed vehicle to bring astronauts to other planets.

Lockheed Martin built Orion for NASA

Lockheed Martin has designed and built the Orion spacecraft for NASA, reports Matt Hamilton of the Associated Press. The Orion is like a highly advanced astronaut taxi. On its journey, the spacecraft will face up to 2,204 degrees Celsius of heat, and travel at 20,000mph. NASA Orion program manager Mark Geyer said the thrusters, parachutes and a protective heat shield will help it splash down accurately into the Pacific Ocean.

During the practice tests, the USS Anchorage’s crew picked up the test version of the 20,000-pound capsule six times. Officials had to add a cradle around the capsule in order to overcome the turbulent waters. They had also installed rubber bumpers in the ship’s deck for cushioning.