NASA’s Orion spacecraft has completed it’s maiden voyage with a successful splashdown in the pacific ocean. After the launch this morning a number of tests were performed during the two orbit mission, Orion was the first human rated spacecraft to travel beyond Low Earth Orbit since Apollo 17 which flew 42 years ago.
This mission allowed NASA and Lockheed Martin, the prime Orion contractor, to verify some of the following:-
- The heat shield, further tests will be performed once the spacecraft has been retrieve to give them a full understanding on the effects the re-entry had.
- How the systems coped as they traveled through the Van Allen radiation belts.
- How the payload fairing and launch abort system worked during liftoff.
Initial indications show that there were no critical issues during the whole mission with one minor issue after splashdown where one or more of the stabilization balloons on top of the vehicle didn’t deploy correctly. The flight was very successful showing that the heat shield could withstand the heat of re-entry, tests after the landing will show how much of the Ablator on the shield was burned off.
Unfortunately now we will have to wait another four years before the next flight of Orion which will also be the debut of the Space Launch System rocket,
Below are some images captured from NASA TV during the mission, of the return and splashdown of Orion