San Diego-based ship retrieves rocket following historic flight

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A NASA space capsule blasted into orbit early Friday and came down in the Pacific Ocean where it was to be retrieved by a San Diego-based warship later this morning.

The USS Anchorage, a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship, left Naval Base San Diego on Monday on its way to the area where the Orion space capsule was originally expected to come down in an undisclosed location Thursday morning.

NASA scrubbed yesterday’s scheduled launch of the unmanned capsule because of a series of issues — among them wind gusts, malfunctioning valves and a boat that got too close to the launch area. The test flight — which could lead to deep space travel — was rescheduled and took place at 4:05 a.m. California time Friday.

The Orion was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida to about 3,600 miles into the Earth’s orbit. Though the capsule is unmanned for the test flight, officials said the Orion could in theory carry people to deep space some day, provided its heat shields, avionics and other systems work as designed.

The capsule is expected to take about four hours to orbit the Earth twice before it hits the Pacific Ocean and can be recovered. The exact timetable will depend on weather conditions and other variables.

NASA is providing real-time tracking of the capsule as it descends to help guide the Anchorage to the capsule’s exact location in the ocean.

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, according to the Navy’s statement.

It is going to take a very complex, highly integrated team of Navy divers, meteorologists and others to complete the mission, Navy Lt. Keith Tate, operations officer, said in a Navy statement.

The last time a NASA vehicle that could carry people traveled so far into space was in 1972 with the last of the agency’s Apollo moon missions. Since then, NASA has only launched craft designed to carry crew just a few hundred miles from Earth.

Coverage by NASA TV is available online at, or on certain cable and satellite television packages.

Categories: KUSI