An unmanned Orion spacecraft completed its maiden test flight Friday, a 4.5-hour excursion intended to provide data for NASA and Lockheed Martin engineers to assess the capsule’s potential for manned space exploration.
NASA conducted Exploration Flight Test-1 to evaluate the launch abort system, guidance and navigation technology, avionics, heat shield and parachutes of the Lockheed-built space exploration vehicle, both the company and the space agency said Friday.
Orion lifted off Friday at 7:05 a.m. Eastern time from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 11:29 a.m.
“Throughout the flight we recorded data from the spacecraft, and later this month, when it arrives back to Kennedy Space Center, we’ll pull select components off the spacecraft to include in our overall analysis,” said Mike Hawes, a corporate vice president and Orion program manager at Lockheed.
Orion achieved a maximum altitude of 3,600 miles, traveled through the Van Allen radiation belt twice and weathered extreme re-entry temperatures during EFT-1.
The agency’s next goal is to send the crew capsule to a distant lunar retrograde orbit with the Boeing-built Space Launch System, a heavy launch vehicle.
“In the coming weeks and months we’ll be taking a look at that invaluable information and applying lessons learned to the next Orion spacecraft already in production for the first mission atop the Space Launch System rocket,” Mark Geyer, NASA’s Orion program manager, said Friday.