Morro Bay residents caught an unusual sight Friday morning.
SpaceX, a private spacecraft manufacturing company based in Hawthorne, finished three days of operations Friday morning that involved dropping a capsule into the ocean off Morro Bay to simulate a space capsule splashing down.
Plans called for a large helicopter to lift the capsule from the Morro Bay Power Plant parking lot and take it several miles offshore, where it would be dropped from 10,000 feet, said Polly Curtis, office assistant with the Morro Bay Harbor Patrol. Several support helicopters were also used.
Parachutes would float the capsule down to the ocean, where several chartered boats picked them up. This is the second year the company has done the simulated capsule drop out of Morro Bay, Curtis said.
The first two days of operations were canceled because of high winds, swell and fog. The capsule was successfully dropped before noon Friday from about 9,000 feet, Curtis said.
“The company said the operation was a success, but the wind and swell were working against them,” Curtis said. “They kept aborting the flight plan.”
Harbor Patrol vessels temporarily closed the harbor entrance to prevent vessels entering and leaving the port from interfering with the operation.
SpaceX officials had left town by Friday afternoon and were unavailable to provide details on the operation. SpaceX, founded in 2002, manufactures and launches advanced spacecraft and rockets, according to its website. Its two launch facilities are at Vandenberg Air Force Base and in Florida.