NASA’s Orion spacecraft, is set to launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket December 4, 2014. The four-hour mission extends from ~7:05 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EST. Liftoff will occur from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Pad 37. Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) will be the first high orbital test flight for the Orion spacecraft. The flight will test systems that are critical to crew safety. EFT-1 is a significant step forward for America’s space program; it’s our first step on a journey to deep space.
Orion will travel to the altitude of 3,600 miles above Earth. That is more than 15 times farther away than the International Space Station’s orbital position, which is about 250 nautical miles above Earth. The spacecraft will generate a reentry velocity exceeding 20,000 mph. Upon reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, Orion’s heat shield will deflect more than 4,000 degrees of heat from the spacecraft and 11 parachutes will sequentially deploy to slow the spacecraft to a safe splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. This flight will last about 4 hours.
Did you Know?
- Orion will return to Earth at a speed of about 25,000mph from its missions to near-Earth asteroids or Lagrange points. A spacecraft’s re-entry speed from a Mars mission would be about 27,000 mph – nearly 20 times faster than a supersonic jet can travel (and more than 35 times faster than most speeding bullets).
- During Earth atmosphere re-entry from a mission to the moon, Orion and its heat shield must protect the vehicle and crew from external temperatures up to 5,000°F (just for reference: the melting point for Titanium is about 3,000°F and the surface temperature of the sun is about 10,000°F).
- Orion’s master computer provides significantly faster computing speed over other human space flight vehicles:
- 4000 times faster than Apollo
- 400 times faster than Shuttle
- 25 times faster than International Space Station
Orion Spotlight: Behind the scenes look at our employees, Orion and the journey to Mars!
When did you catch the "Space Bug"?
“As a child, I was fascinated by the unbelievable distance of the stars from Earth and the fact that I was looking at light from years ago. When I was five years old, I visited the Kennedy Space Center with my father – beginning my passion for rockets.”
Orion Propulsion System Design Lead
“Looking out into the sky, I’ve always thought about how it was possible to go to space. As a child, whenever I saw an article or news story about a space program, I would cut them out and save them in a photo album. Now, I have the chance to live out a dream working on Orion.”
Kennedy Space Center Quality Assurance Engineering Technical Lead