Watch Live: Orion Spacecraft Launched Successfully; Returns, Recovered

NASA’s new spacecraft, Orion, was successfully launched from Florida this morning and it is in the space orbiting and the next critical phase, expected at about 9 a.m. EST, when the second engine burn of the Delta IV Heavy rocket, to lift Orion to its peak altitude of 3,600 miles. The flight test is scheduled to end with Orion splashing down in the Pacific Ocean at about 11:29 a.m. EST and it returned as planned at 11:31 am.

Live updates:

Orion in Stable 1, Upright on Pacific Waters
11:38 am: The Orion capsule landed upright on its base in a position called Stable 1 and remains in Stable 1 as it floats on the Pacific’s surface. The spacecraft’s systems performed perfectly throughout the mission including two passes through the Van Allen radiation belts and the heat of re-entry.

Helicopter Moving In Toward Orion
11:34 am: U.S. Navy H-60 helicopter is flying out to Orion as the recovery process begins for the first Orion flight test.

Orion Descends to Splashdown
11:31 am: Orion is bobbing on the surface of the Pacific Ocean now and a pair of U.S. Navy ships are moving in to retrieve it. 11:29 CST.

Main Chutes Deployed!
11:26 am: Orion is falling gently toward the Pacific Ocean surface under three parachutes that combined would cover a football field.
Forward Bay Cover Jettisoned; Drogues Deployed
11:25 am: Orion made it through re-entry! The protective cover over the parachutes at the top of the spacecraft has jettisoned so now the parachutes can begin their deployment to slow Orion for splashdown. The cover will be lowered to ocean on small parachutes of its own and deployed.

Orion Signal Re-Acquired:

11:23 am: Orion is sending back signals and video now as it slows going through the atmosphere.

Peak Heating:
11:21 am: Orion continues to slow down quickly as the atmosphere it flies through gets thicker and thicker. The thickening air also generates more heat and the spacecraft is now passing through that hottest part of reentry.

Heat Wave Enveloping Orion:

11:20 am:Plasma of 4,000 degrees F is enveloping Orion’s crew module now and signals from the spacecraft cannot get through it. The base heat shield will bear the brunt of the heat, but the backshell of the capsule will see high temperatures too. That’s why it’s been covered with black tiles like those used on the space shuttle. This blackout is expected to last about 2 1/2 minutes.

Entry Interface:
11:19 am: T+4 hours, 13 minutes – Orion is flying now with its base heat shield facing Earth as it encounters the first areas of the discernable atmosphere around the planet and the temperature around the spacecraft begins to build up. The spacecraft is coming in at 20,000 mph and will be slowed considerably. With help of parachutes later, Orion will splash down at about 20 mph, having made the 75-mile fall to the ocean surface in 11 minutes.

Leaving High Radiation Zone

9:25 am: Orion has passed through the lower Van Allen belt and remains on course as it flies through space. Flight controllers are maintaining contact with the craft through its telemetry systems.

December 5, 2014 — 2 hours and five minutes into flight: Orion is entering the lower Van Allen belt which contains intense levels of radiation. The cameras onboard Orion have been turned off to protect them. It will take 15 minutes to pass through this zone.

The spacecraft will encounter it again on its way back to Earth in another hour-and-a-half. “Everything going perfectly on the maiden flight of Orion,” says NASA TV commentator Rob Navias.

NASA’s new spacecraft, Orion, is now more than 3,000 miles above Earth after the second engine burn of the Delta IV Heavy rocket.  Orion launched from Florida  this morning (video,image) and is expected to splashdown in the Pacific at around 11:29 a.m. EST.

Two Hours After Update: Second Stage Engine Cutoff Two has put Orion on its proper flight test path heading away from Earth before the altitude peaks and it begins coming back for re-entry. The second stage and service module will remain connected with Orion until the T+3 hour, 9 minute point of the mission.

Watch it Live on:

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Second Stage Ignites to Lift Orbit:  : The single engine of the second stage is firing now, using its 24,750 pounds of thrust to push Orion higher above Earth. This burn will last 4 minutes and 42 seconds and place Orion on a path through the Van Allen radiation belts and then back to Earth’s atmosphere at high speed.
Orion finished its first orbit of the two it will make during this flight test. All systems go ahead of the second stage re-ignition in five minutes to push Orion to an altitude of about 3,630 miles.

Orion, built by Lockheed Martin, is designed to take humans beyond Earth orbit into deep space, including missions to an asteroid and eventually Mars. The success of today’s mission will help build the next Orion mission in 2017.

Orioninfocard“Orbiting above Earth attached to the Delta IV second stage, Orion’s telemetry shows all systems working well on NASA’s newest spacecraft designed for astronauts,” said NASA on its blog.

The next major stages in the flight test will begin with the re-ignition of the second stage engine. That 4 1/2-minute burn will send Orion out of low Earth orbit and on a path to fly 3,600 miles high before returning to Earth. The flight test is scheduled to end with Orion splashing down in the Pacific Ocean at about 11:29 a.m. EST.


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