After a brilliant first test flight, and historic Pacific Ocean splashdown and recovery on Dec. 5, 2014, NASA’s Orion spacecraft was brought onshore inside the USS Anchorage to the US Naval Base San Diego and has now been offloaded for the cross country trek back her home base in Florida.
Orion was off-loaded from the well deck of the USS Anchorage Monday night after the amphibious ship docked in San Diego.
NASA officials pronounced the two orbit, 4.5 hour flight maiden test flight of Orion on the Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission to be a complete success.
The EFT-1 spacecraft was recovered at sea, brought to land, and off-loaded by a combined team from NASA, the U.S. Navy, and Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin.
Years of planning, rehearsals, and hard work on land, in the air, and at sea paid off handsomely for the Orion Recovery Team, led by the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program (GSDO) based at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“The recovery of Orion was flawless,” said Jeremy Graeber, NASA recovery director. “We wanted to be patient, take our time. We didn’t rush.”
Navy teams in Zodiac boats had attached a collar and winch line to Orion at sea and then safely towed it into the flooded well deck of the USS Anchorage and positioned it over rubber “speed bumps.”
Next they secured Orion inside its recovery cradle and transported it back to US Naval Base San Diego where it was off-loaded from the USS Anchorage.
Orion has now been moved about a mile to the “Mole Pier” where Lockheed Martin has conducted the first test inspection of the crew module and collected test data.
Next, it was placed into the crew module transportation fixture with a rigorous environmental control system and generator to ensure the crew module’s safety during transport.
Orion will be hauled on a flatbed truck across the US for a nearly two-week trip back to Kennedy where it will arrive just in time for the Christmas holidays.
Technicians at KSC will examine every nook and cranny of Orion, and will disassemble it for up close inspection and lessons learned.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.
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