NASA releases video of Orion’s fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fl — Upon completing its two-orbit voyage into space, NASA’s new crew-rated spacecraft, Orion, returned home at speeds reaching some 20,000 miles (32,187 kilometers) an hour. What would an astronaut see from his or her position seated within the capsule-shaped spacecraft? NASA placed a camera inside the Orion that carried out the Dec. 5 Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1) mission – and the footage it provided – helped answer that very question. What the camera witnessed – was astonishing – and spoke to the fantastic stresses and temperatures that the spacecraft encountered as it made its way through Earth’s thick atmosphere.
The recorder that captured this video was actually one of the first elements to be removed and reviewed after it conducted its voyage through Earth’s atmosphere. The video recorder was positioned so it was looking out one of Orion’s windows. NASA showed what video it could during the descent directly on NASA TV. However, as the temperatures surrounding the spacecraft reached 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit – the superheated plasma prevented the reception of the video signal.
According to NASA, the video below begins about 10 minutes prior to Orion’s 11:29 a.m. EST splashdown off the Coast of California. When all was said and done, Orion deployed some 11 parachutes after its forward bay cover was jettisoned – slowing Orion to a speed of about 20 miles (32 kilometers) per hour.
The video shows how friction builds up, generating incredible temperatures which caused the increasingly dense air surrounding the spacecraft to change colors, from white, to yellow and then a light red. The heat, will be kept away from crews that will fly on Orion by a process known as ablation – where the material that comprises the vessel’s heat shield burns away – and takes the heat with it.
Shortly after splashing down, a combined U.S. Navy, Air Force and NASA team retrieved Orion and guided the seared craft into the USS Anchorage – where it was then brought back to land. It then was trucked back across the continental United States, arriving at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Dec. 18.
Video courtesy of NASA
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.