After a series of cancelled launches yesterday, Orion's first test flight launched smoothly at 7:05AM ET. It attained low Earth orbit at 7:30AM, and reached an apogee of 3,600 miles from the Earth. That's the farthest any capsule designed for a crew has been since the Apollo mission. Orion re-entered the atmosphere at a screaming 20,000 miles per hour, before its 11 parachutes deployed to slow the craft to 20 miles per hour — the speed at which it hit the water in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Baja California. Here are some of the photos from its 4 hour and 24 minute flight.
"It turned out to be the most perfect flight you could imagine," said Rob Navias, NASA TV commentator, after Orion landed in the Pacific Ocean.
- False start Orion pre-dawn in Cape Canaveral on Dec. 4.
- If at first you don't succeed... Orion's rockets begin firing at take-off on Dec. 5. Liftoff was 7:05, just after sunrise.
- Ready, set... The rockets ignite!
- Separation Orion's onboard camera snaps the separation of the three 13 by 14-foot Orion service module fairings after liftoff
- Blue marble A view of Earth from Orion's first orbit
- Near the top of its ascent A view of Earth from the second loop, as Orion neared its peak distance from the ground
- Another view This photo is taken from inside Orion — the window astronauts may someday use — to peek back at Earth
- Parachutes deployed From another angle: Orion plunges through the clouds with its parachutes slowing it
- Hitting the surface Orion, left, hits the ocean a little east of its planned splashdown point.