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Orion flight test profile for the Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) launching on Dec. 4, 2014. Credit: NASA

Cool Infographics Explain 8 Key Events on Orion’s EFT-1 Test Flight

14 Nov , 2014

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After moving out to the launch pad earlier this week, NASA’s first Orion spacecraft was hoisted atop the most powerful rocket in the world and awaits blastoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in early December on a critical test flight that will pave the way for human missions to deep space for the first time in more than four decades since NASA’s Apollo moon landing missions ended in 1972.

NASA’s cool new set of infographics above and below explain 8 key events on Orion’s Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission and its first trip to orbit and back.

Orion will lift off on a Delta IV Heavy rocket on its inaugural test flight to space on the uncrewed EFT-1 mission at 7:05 a.m. EST on December 4, 2014, from Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The two-orbit, four and a half hour Orion EFT-1 flight around Earth will lift the Orion spacecraft and its attached second stage to an orbital altitude of 3,600 miles, about 15 times higher than the International Space Station (ISS) – and farther than any human spacecraft has journeyed in 40 years.

Launch - It’s going to be loud. It’s going to be bright. It’s going to be smoky. Engines are fired, the countdown ends and Orion lifts off into space atop the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida.  Credit: NASA

Launch – It’s going to be loud. It’s going to be bright. It’s going to be smoky. Engines are fired, the countdown ends, and Orion lifts off into space atop the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Credit: NASA

EFT-1 will test the rocket, second stage, jettison mechanisms, as well as avionics, attitude control, computers, and electronic systems inside the Orion spacecraft.

Then the spacecraft will carry out a high speed re-entry through the atmosphere at speeds approaching 20,000 mph and scorching temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit to test the heat shield, before splashing down for a parachute assisted landing in the Pacific Ocean.

Exposure - It’s time to fly! The protective panels surrounding the service module are jettisoned and the launch abort system separates from the spacecraft. Credit: NASA

Exposure – It’s time to fly! The protective panels surrounding the service module are jettisoned and the launch abort system separates from the spacecraft. Credit: NASA

Re-ignition - Orbit 1 is complete! The upper stage will now fire up again to propel Orion to an altitude of 3,600 miles during its second trip around Earth. Credit: NASA

Re-ignition – Orbit 1 is complete! The upper stage will now fire up again to propel Orion to an altitude of 3,600 miles during its second trip around Earth. Credit: NASA

Separation - It’s now time to prepare for reentry. The service module and upper stage separate so that only the crew module will return to Earth. Credit: NASA

Separation – It’s now time to prepare for reentry. The service module and upper stage separate so that only the crew module will return to Earth. Credit: NASA

Orientation - Orion’s first flight will be uncrewed, but that doesn’t mean we can allow Orion to return to Earth upside down. This test flight will help us test the control jets to ensure that they can orient the capsule in the correct reentry position. Credit: NASA

Orientation – Orion’s first flight will be uncrewed, but that doesn’t mean we can allow Orion to return to Earth upside down. This test flight will help us test the control jets to ensure that they can orient the capsule in the correct reentry position. Credit: NASA

Heating - Things are heating up as Orion slams into the atmosphere at almost 20,000 mph and encounters temperatures near 4,000 degrees F.  Credit: NASA

Heating – Things are heating up as Orion slams into the atmosphere at almost 20,000 mph and encounters temperatures near 4,000 degrees F. Credit: NASA

Deploy - After initial air friction slows the capsule from 20,000 mph, Orion will still be descending at 300 mph—too fast for a safe splashdown. A sequence of parachute deployments will create drag to further slow the spacecraft to a comfortable 20 mph. Credit: NASA

Deploy – After initial air friction slows the capsule from 20,000 mph, Orion will still be descending at 300 mph—too fast for a safe splashdown. A sequence of parachute deployments will create drag to further slow the spacecraft to a comfortable 20 mph. Credit: NASA

Landing = Orion will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California, where it will be recovered with help from the United States Navy. Credit: NASA

Landing – Orion will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California, where it will be recovered with help from the United States Navy. Credit: NASA

Here’s what Orion’s ocean splashdown and recovery by Navy divers will look like:

US Navy divers on four boats attached tow lines and to the Orion test capsule and guide it to the well deck on the USS Arlington during Aug. 15 recovery test Norfolk Naval Base, VA.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

US Navy divers on four boats attached tow lines to the Orion test capsule and guide it to the well deck on the USS Arlington during Aug. 15, 2013, recovery test at Norfolk Naval Base, VA. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Orion is NASA’s next generation human rated vehicle that will carry America’s astronauts beyond Earth on voyages venturing farther into deep space than ever before – beyond the Moon to Asteroids, Mars, and other destinations in our Solar System.

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket is the world’s most powerful rocket. The triple barreled Delta IV Heavy booster is the only rocket sufficiently powerful to launch the 50,000 pound Orion EFT-1 spacecraft to orbit.

The first stage of the mammoth Delta IV Heavy generates some 2 million pounds of liftoff thrust.

Watch for Ken’s Orion coverage, and he’ll be at KSC for the historic launch on Dec. 4.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Orion and Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

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