NASA is getting ready for the first test flight of the Orion crew vehicle, currently scheduled for December 4, 2014. “Before we can send astronauts into space on Orion, we have to test all of its systems,” says NASA engineer Kelly Smith in this new video released by NASA. “And there’s only one way to know if we got it right: fly it in space.”
Of course for Orion’s first test fight, no astronauts will be aboard. The spacecraft will be loaded with sensors to record and measure all aspects of the flight in detail. Orion is now in the final stages of preparation for the uncrewed flight that will take it 5,800 km (3,600 miles) above Earth on a 4.5-hour mission to test many of the systems necessary for future human missions into deep space.
Already the Delta IV Heavy rocket that will launch the test flight has been rolled to the launch pad, and the Orion capsule will be transported to the pad around November 10 or 11.
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After launch, the spacecraft will make two orbits and then reenter Earth’s atmosphere at almost 32,000 km/hr (20,000 miles per hour), and reach temperatures near 2,200 degrees Celsius (4,000 degrees Fahrenheit), before its parachute system deploys to slow the spacecraft for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.