A test version of the Orion capsule left NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia early Thursday on the bed of an 18-wheeler, headed for California. The four-week road trip will make stops in Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before an early January arrival in San Diego, California.
A map showing the convoy’s planned route takes the Orion mock-up through East Texas, before connecting with Interstate 20 in Dallas and heading west. Dates and specific locations of planned stops were not immediately available, however a NASA spokesperson said those details would be released at later time. The route was selected to accommodate a wide load truck.
The mockup is headed for Naval Base San Diego, where it will undergo further testing in February. Simulations there will focus on the recovery phase of Orion’s first mission, the unmanned ‘Exploration Flight Test-1,’ expected to launch in September 2014.
Unlike the Space Shuttle, which landed on an aircraft runway, the Orion spacecraft will end its first mission with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, recovered by the USS San Diego.
In February the test vehicle will be set adrift in open waters, giving NASA and the Navy the opportunity to practice retrieving the spacecraft in rough seas. “The team will seek out various sea states in which to practice the capsule recovery procedure in an effort to build their knowledge base of how the capsule recovery differs in calm and rough seas and what are the true physical limits,” according to a NASA news release.
NASA is asking its social media followers to tag pictures and posts about the Orion’s cross-country trek using hashtag #SpotOrion .
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