Despite a delay in its launch, the first flight of the Orion Spacecraft was largely viewed as a resounding success.
While the inaugural flight of the Orion crew capsule launched earlier this month was an unmanned mission, NASA has released a video that essentially provides and astronaut’s-eye view of its fiery reentry through the Earth’s atmosphere. The “Trial by Fire” lasted roughly ten minutes before being returned to Earth via parachute to finish the trip.
The test capsule ultimately reached an altitude of just over 3600 miles when it was launched on December 5. The video that NASA filmed was shot through what will ultimately be the passenger windows of the flight capsule.
NASA’s Orion spacecraft: Spectacular video
“The video provides a taste of the intense conditions the spacecraft and the astronauts it carries will endure when they return from deep space destinations on the Journey to Mars,” NASA said in a statement.
NASA TV, had already showed a good bit of the video in real time for live broadcast but as the capsule burned through the Earth’s atmosphere reaching temperatures of nearly 4000 degrees Fahrenheit there was always to be a communication blackout that prevented the whole episode from unfolding on live television.
The Orion EFT-1 spacecraft splashed down at about 20MPH in the Pacific Ocean before being towed to the USS Anchorage and later offloaded at a naval base in San Diego. From there the capsule was driven via flat bed truck from Southern California to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida last week.
Delta IV Rocket and replacement
The Orion was lifted into a 4.5 hour two orbit trip by the world’s most powerful rocket, the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket. No planned manned-missions will use the Delta IV though further unmanned flights will utilize the Delta IV as NASA develops its replacement for use in the planned Mars missions in the 2030s.
The flight, though unmanned, was the furthest a NASA spacecraft has traveled since launch of Apollo 17 on NASA’s final moon landing mission on Dec. 7, 1972.