[image-51]A test version of NASA’s Orion spacecraft has taken to the road for the next several weeks, as it makes its way across country for recovery tests off the coast of California.
The mockup rolled away from NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., on Dec. 11, and will arrive at Naval Base San Diego in California in early January. There, the Orion stand in will be used in February to support tests simulating the recovery of Orion following its return from space.
The Orion mockup will travel through Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before crossing the California border. For updates on where the capsule is or is headed, follow @NASA_Orion on Twitter. If spotted, individuals are encouraged to share their photos of the mockup via social media using the hashtag #SpotOrion.
The mockup, called a boilerplate test article, has already been used in a number of tests to ensure that Orion will be ready for its first mission, Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), scheduled for September 2014. That mission will take Orion to 3,600 miles above the Earth’s surface before returning it at speeds of up to 20,000 miles per hour for a splash landing in the Pacific Ocean.
During the underway recovery tests in San Diego, the mockup will be set adrift in open and unstable waters, providing NASA and the Navy the opportunity to recover the capsule and bring it into the well deck of the USS San Diego. While deployed, the team will seek out various sea states in which to practice the capsule recovery procedures. This will help build a knowledge base of how the capsule recovery differs in calm and rough seas and what the true physical limits are.
The 18,000-pound mockup is a full-size replica of the Orion spacecraft currently being built at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. NASA and the Navy previously used this mockup to practice recovery in calm seas during a stationary recovery test in August where the spacecraft was set adrift in the waters of Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia and recovered into the docked well deck of the USS Arlington. The mockup was also dropped from 25 feet above the water of Langley’s Hydro Impact Basin to simulate different splashdown scenarios.