The Orion, which is designed for flights beyond Earth orbit, is scheduled to be launched Thursday morning atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket, currently the largest in the world. During the four-hour flight the Orion will orbit twice and then re-enter the atmosphere at 20,000 miles per hour to test its heat shield.
Anchorage will use its amphibious capabilities to conduct an at-sea recovery of the Orion space capsule.
“It is a very complex, highly-integrated team of Navy divers, meteorologists, flight crews, the well-deck personnel and the bridge watch standers on Anchorage,” said Lt. Keith Tate, operations officer. “All of this will hopefully culminate with the historic capsule recovery, which is something the Navy hasn’t been involved with for almost 40 years.”
The launch window for this NASA mission terminates Dec. 19.
The Orion is being designed to carry a crew of four astronauts on long-duration missions to an asteroid, the Moon or Mars.
The unmanned test next week will use the largest rocket currently available, but future manned flights will use NASA’s giant Space Launch System currently under development.
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