Guest post by Christopher Crockett
The flawless maiden voyage of the Orion spacecraft — NASA’s new vehicle for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit — ended with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean at 11:29 a.m. Eastern time, about 440 kilometers west of Baja California. The 4-hour and 24-minute journey took Orion on two loops around Earth for its first full, unmanned test flight.
After winds and a faulty valve scrubbed yesterday’s launch, the Orion craft launched atop a United Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center at 7:05 a.m. Eastern time. Orion reached a peak altitude of 5,800 kilometers and passed through the high-radiation Van Allen belts that encircle Earth, which was a crucial test for the spacecraft’s electronics.