The Orion carried the STS-7 crew patch Dr. Sally Ride wore when she became the first American woman to fly in space. The late astronaut was a professor at UC San Diego.
Liftoff came on schedule at 4:05 a.m. Pacific Time on NASA’s second try to launch the unmanned test mission. The launch was scrubbed Thursday after a series of holds caused by higher than expected winds and balky engine valves.
The spacecraft is expected to complete two orbits of the earth, then land around 8:30 a.m. in the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles southwest of San Diego.
Once the capsule is in the water, Navy divers aboard small boats will maneuver alongside and rig tending lines to guide the capsule to the ship. After recovery, the Orion will be taken to San Diego.
The Anchorage, an amphibious transport dock successfully tested recovery of an Orion in September off the coast of San Diego.
The Orion is being designed to carry a crew of four astronauts on long-duration missions to an asteroid, the Moon or Mars. The first crewed flight is expected later in the decade.
The unmanned test is using the largest rocket currently available, but future manned flights will use NASA’s giant Space Launch System now under development.
The last time a NASA vehicle that could carry people traveled so far into space was in 1972 with the last of the Apollo moon missions.
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