Mars Era Opens with Spectacular Blastoff of NASA’s New Orion Crew Spacecraft

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – The long road to NASA’s “Mars Era” opened with the thunderous on-time blastoff today, Dec. 5, of NASA’s first Orion spacecraft.

Orion took flight atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket on its inaugural test flight to space on the uncrewed Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission at 7:05 a.m. EST on December 5, 2014, from Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

“It’s the dawn of Orion and a new era in space exploration,” said NASA launch commentator Mike Curie as the Delta rocket roared to life.

Orion’s Delta rocket lit the sky on fire and soared to space on the world’s most powerful rocket.

NASA’s first Orion spacecraft blasts off at 7:05 a.m. atop United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy Booster at Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Dec. 4, 2014.   Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com
NASA’s first Orion spacecraft blasts off at 7:05 a.m. atop United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy Booster at Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Dec. 5, 2014. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Jubilation broke out in Mission Control as Orion slowly ascended from the pad.

“It’s a great day for America,” said NASA Flight Director Mike Sarafin.

Inaugural Orion crew module launches at 7:05 a.m. on Delta 4 Heavy Booster from pad 37 at Cape Canaveral on Dec. 4, 2014.   Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com
Inaugural Orion crew module launches at 7:05 a.m. on Delta 4 Heavy Booster from pad 37 at Cape Canaveral on Dec. 5, 2014. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

This story is being updated directly from the Kennedy Space Center. Further details in follow up features.

Watch for Ken’s ongoing Orion coverage and he is onsite at KSC during launch week for the historic launch on Dec. 5.

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

Ken Kremer

NASA’s first Orion spacecraft and Delta 4 Heavy Booster unveiled at Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida prior to launch set for Dec. 4, 2014.   Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com
NASA’s first Orion spacecraft and Delta 4 Heavy Booster unveiled at Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida prior to launch on Dec. 5, 2014. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Orion Unveiled for Maiden Launch Today Dec. 4

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – The inaugural blastoff of NASA’s new Orion capsule is now just hours away.

We are counting down to NASA’s new generation of human spaceflight vehicles that starts humanity on the road to Mars.

Update: Technical issue delay 1st Orion launch. Details to follow.

“This is a big deal and its importance cannot be underestimated,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told the media during a briefing at the Delta pad.

NASA’s first Orion spacecraft and Delta 4 Heavy Booster unveiled at Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida prior to launch set for Dec. 4, 2014.   Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com
NASA’s first Orion spacecraft and Delta 4 Heavy Booster unveiled at Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida prior to launch set for Dec. 4, 2014. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Just eight hours before the planned liftoff, the media, including myself, witnessed the rollback of the service tower to unveil Orion and its Delta IV Heavy booster rocket to the heavens where it soon soar on it first test flight.

Enjoy my photo gallery herein.

The Orion capsule is designed to carry astronauts farther into space than ever before and open a new era in human spaceflight.

Orion is slated to lift off on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket on its inaugural test flight to space on the uncrewed Exploration Flight Test-1 (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 launch window extends for 2 hours and 39 minutes.

Continue reading “Orion Unveiled for Maiden Launch Today Dec. 4”

T Minus 1 Day to Launch: Orion at the Pad Photos

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – The debut blastoff of NASA’s new Orion capsule is less than 24 hours away.

Today, Dec 3, the media including myself visited Orion and its Delta IV Heavy booster rocket for an up close look at its launch pad along the Florida space coast and set up our sound activated launch pad cameras. Enjoy my photo gallery herein.

The Orion capsule is designed to carry astronauts farther into space than ever before and open a new era in human spaceflight.

NASA’s first Orion spacecraft atop Delta 4 Heavy Booster at Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida one day prior to launch set for Dec. 4, 2014.   Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com
NASA’s first Orion spacecraft atop Delta 4 Heavy Booster at Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida one day prior to launch set for Dec. 4, 2014. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Tens of thousands of visitors have flocked to the space coast. Area hotels have been sold out for many weeks. Huge crowds are expected for perhaps the biggest crowd of spectators for any launch since the space shuttles were retired in July 2011.

Orion is slated to lift off on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket on its inaugural test flight to space on the uncrewed Exploration Flight Test-1 (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.

Up close view of Orion inside the mobile service tower pad 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida one day prior to launch.   Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com
Up close view of Orion inside the mobile service tower pad 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida one day prior to launch. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

The weather forecast has improved from 60% to 70% chance of GO, with favorable conditions at expected at launch time at 7:05 a.m. on Dec. 4, 2014.

The launch window extends for 2 hours and 39 minutes.
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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.

NASA TV will provide several hours of live Orion EFT-1 launch coverage with the new countdown clock – starting at 4:30 a.m. on Dec. 4.

Watch for Ken’s ongoing Orion coverage and he is onsite at KSC in the days leading up to 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

………….

Learn more about Orion, SpaceX, Antares, NASA missions and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events:

Dec 1-5: “Orion EFT-1, SpaceX CRS-5, Antares Orb-3 launch, Curiosity Explores Mars,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings

Rise of the Mega Rockets: Comparing Heavy Lift Launch Systems

A new generation of space rockets ready to lift new and exciting payloads spaceward is coming to a sky near you.

Tomorrow, a Delta IV Heavy rocket will boost the Orion space capsule on a two orbit journey around the Earth that will test key systems. And though tomorrow’s launch is uncrewed, the Orion Command Module will one day form the core of NASA’s Orion MPCV Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and is slated to care out humanity’s first mission to an asteroid and beyond in the next decade.

But a second, lesser known launch also leaves Earth tomorrow as well, atop a rocket that will soon give way to a new generation of lift boosters as launch services vie for new customers. Just over eight hours after the launch of EFT-1, an Ariane 5 rocket lifts off from French Guiana with GSAT-16.

Credit Jason Major.
The EFT-1 Delta IV Heavy posed for roll out. Credit: Jason Major. @JPMajor

Is the ‘battle of the boosters’ heating up?

This comes after the December 2nd announcement earlier this week by participating members of the European Space Agency to proceed with the development of the next generation Ariane 6 rocket. Also included in the 5.9 billion Euro (7.3 billion USD) budget proposal  is funding for the 2018 ExoMars mission, along with further support of ESA’s International Space Station commitments.

To date, ESA has fielded five of its Automated Transfer cargo Vehicles (ATVs) on missions to the International Space Station. ESA will also design the Service Module segment of the Orion MPCV.

“I can summarize this ministerial council by say it was a success… I’d even go so far as to say that it is a great success,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, the director-general of the European Space Agency.

The Ariane 6 is expected to be on the launch pad by 2020, and will feature two variants capable of placing 5 to 11 tonnes in a geostationary transfer orbit. The solid fuel booster to be incorporated will be based on the Vega rocket design, while the upper stage Vinci engine is already currently in development.

Ariane 6. Credit Wikimedia Commons, SkywalkerPL.
A look at the Ariane 6 rocket. Credit Wikimedia Commons, SkywalkerPL.

The design has been hotly contested among European Space Agency members, many of whom are in favor of other variants based on the upgraded Ariane 5. Some of the largest rockets of all time included those developed by NPO Energia, capable of lofting 100,000 kilograms into low Earth orbit. An Energia N1 Moon rocket exploded on the pad on July 3rd 1969, effectively ending the Soviet Union’s bid to put a man on the Moon. In comparison,   the massive Saturn V rocket — thus far, the largest and most powerful ever fielded by the United States  — could deploy the equivalent of 118,000 kg to low Earth orbit and 47,000 kg to a Trans-Lunar Insertion orbit around the Moon.

But that’s just the beginning. Though the Orion capsule will ride atop a United Launch Services Delta IV Heavy tomorrow — a system usually employed for launching clandestine spy satellites — NASA hopes to have its own Space Launch System (SLS) rocket sitting on the pad by the end of 2018. Boeing was awarded the contract for SLS earlier this year, and the system largely rose re-imagined from the ashes of the cancelled Constellation program. The SLS Block 1 is expected to have a lift capacity of 70,000 kg to LEO, while Boeing’s proposed SLS Block 2 variant would, if fielded, have the largest lift capacity of all time at 130,000 kg to LEO. Only the Long March 9 proposed by China approaches that lofty goal.

Credit: NASA.
An artist’s concept of Orion headed towards deep space. Credit: NASA.

And the wild card is Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Already in the game of sending cargo via its Dragon spacecraft to the ISS, SpaceX is developing a reputation for dependability when it comes to getting satellites into orbit at relatively low cost. SpaceX hopes to field its Falcon 9 Heavy with a lift capacity of 53,000 kg to LEO sometime in 2015, and many proposed missions are banking on the the Falcon 9 Heavy as a future service provider for solar system exploration.  Certainly, with the recent failure of the Antares rocket on October 28th, SpaceX may look like the more attractive option to many, and the development of the Ariane 6 is expected to face stiff competition in the brave new world of high tech rocketry.

Ever wonder what all of these launch vehicles and spacecraft past and present look like stacked up against each other? There’s a graphic for that, recently featured on Io9:

Credit: Heaney555
A breakdown and comparison of spacecraft launch systems. Click to enlarge. Credit: Reddit user Heaney555.

From Almaz to Zarya, this is a fascinating study in scale comparison. Be sure to zoom in and check out the tiny ant-like crew compliment of each, also to scale. Of course, the backyard satellite-tracker in us can’t help be notice the brightness-versus size comparison for many of these. For example, the International Space Station on a good pass can appear as bright as Venus at -4th magnitude — and even look “TIE Fighter shaped” in binoculars — while the smaller Shenzhou and Soyuz modules are often barely visible as they pass overhead. And how we miss watching the Shuttle paired with the International Space Station as they both glided silently by:

But such orbital drama can still be caught if you know when and where to look for it. And speaking of which, viewers in western Australia and the southwestern United States may be able to see Orion and EFT-1 on its first lap around the Earth tomorrow before it fires its engines over the Atlantic headed for a 5,800 km apogee over southern Africa. Assuming EFT-1 lifts off at the beginning of its 159 minute launch window at 7:05 AM EST/12:05 UT, expect it to see it crossing dusk skies over western Australia at 55 minutes after liftoff, and dawn skies for the southwestern U.S. at 95 minutes post-launch respectively.

An awesome sight to behold indeed, marking the start of a brave new era of space exploration.

So what do you, the astute and space-minded reader of Universe Today think? Are the SLS and its kin the lift vehicle(s) of the future, or ‘rockets to nowhere?’ Will they survive the political winds that are bound to blow over the coming decade? Will the Ariane 6 best the Falcon 9 as the lift platform of choice?

One thing is for sure, expect coverage of space exploration drama and more to continue here at Universe Today!

 

 

Moon Over Orion Heralds Start of NASA’s Human Road to Mars

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – This week’s appearance of the Moon over the Kennedy Space Center marks the perfect backdrop heralding the start of NASA’s determined push to send Humans to Mars by the 2030s via the agency’s new Orion crew capsule set to soar to space on its maiden test flight in less than two days.

Orion is the first human rated vehicle that can carry astronauts beyond low Earth orbit on voyages to deep space in more than 40 years.

Top managers from NASA, United Launch Alliance (ULA), and Lockheed Martin met on Tuesday, Dec. 2, and gave the “GO” to proceed toward launch after a thorough review of all systems related to the Orion capsule, rocket, and ground operation systems at the launch pad at the Launch Readiness Review (LRR), said Mark Geyer at a NASA media briefing on Dec. 2.

A new countdown display has been constructed in the place of the former analog countdown clock at the Press Site at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for Orion’s first launch. The display is a modern, digital LED display akin to stadium monitors. It allows television images to be shown along with numbers.  Note former shuttle launch pad 39A in the background above clock.   Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
A new countdown display has been constructed in the place of the former analog countdown clock at the Press Site at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for Orion’s first launch slated for Dec. 4, 2014. The display is a modern, digital LED display akin to stadium monitors. It allows television images to be shown along with numbers. Note former shuttle launch pad 39A in the background above clock. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Orion is slated to lift off on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket on its inaugural test flight to space on the uncrewed Exploration Flight Test-1 (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.

America’s astronauts flying aboard Orion will venture farther into deep space than ever before – beyond the Moon to Asteroids, Mars, and other destinations in our Solar System starting around 2020 or 2021 on Orion’s first crewed flight atop NASA’s new monster rocket – the SLS – concurrently under development.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden officially unveils world’s largest welder to start construction of core stage of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket at NASA Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, on Sept. 12, 2014. SLS will be the world’s most powerful rocket ever built.  Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden officially unveils world’s largest welder to start construction of core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket at NASA Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, on Sept. 12, 2014. SLS will be the world’s most powerful rocket ever built. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

The current weather forecast states the launch is 60 percent “GO” for favorable weather condition at the scheduled liftoff time of at 7:05 a.m. on Dec. 4, 2014.

The launch window extends for 2 hours and 39 minutes.

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.

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

Orion atop Delta 4 Heavy Booster.   Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Orion atop Delta 4 Heavy Booster. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

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.

NASA TV will provide several hours of live Orion EFT-1 launch coverage with the new countdown clock – starting at 4:30 a.m. on Dec. 4.

Orion’s move to Launch Complex-37. Credit: Mike Killian
Orion’s move to Launch Complex-37. Credit: Mike Killian

Watch for Ken’s ongoing Orion coverage and he’ll be onsite at KSC in the days leading up to 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
………….
Learn more about Orion, SpaceX, Antares, NASA missions, and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events:

Dec 1-5: “Orion EFT-1, SpaceX CRS-5, Antares Orb-3 launch, Curiosity Explores Mars,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings

Side view shows trio of Common Booster Cores (CBCs) with RS-68 engines powering the Delta IV Heavy rocket resting horizontally in ULA’s HIF processing facility at Cape Canaveral that will launch NASA’s maiden Orion on the EFT-1 mission in December 2014 from Launch Complex 37.   Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Side view shows trio of Common Booster Cores (CBCs) with RS-68 engines powering the Delta IV Heavy rocket resting horizontally in ULA’s HIF processing facility at Cape Canaveral that will launch NASA’s maiden Orion on the EFT-1 mission in December 2014 from Launch Complex 37. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Cool NASA Animation Beautifully Details Every Step of Orion’s First Launch!

Video Caption: Animation details NASA’s Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission launching on Dec. 4. 2014. Credit: NASA

It’s not Science Fiction! It’s Not Star Trek!

No. It’s a really, really big NASA Mission! It’s Orion!

In fact, it’s the biggest and most important development in US Human Spaceflight since the end of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011.

Orion is launching soon on its first flight, the pathfinding Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission and sets NASA on the path to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.

Watch this cool NASA animation beautifully detailing every key step of Orion’s First Launch!

Orion is designed to take humans farther than they’ve ever gone before. Even farther into deep space than NASA’s Apollo moon landing which ended more than four decades ago!

We are T-MINUS 4 Days and Counting to the inaugural blastoff of Orion as of today, Sunday, November 30, 2014.

To learn even more about the 8 major events and goals happening during Orion’s EFT-1 mission be sure to check out my recent story with NASA’s fabulous new set of infographics – here.

Every aspect of the final processing steps now in progress by engineers and technicians from NASA, rocket provider United Launch Alliance, and Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin is proceeding smoothly and marching towards launch.

Orion’s move to Launch Complex-37. Credit: Mike Killian
Orion’s move to Launch Complex-37. Credit: Mike Killian

Orion will lift off on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket on its inaugural test flight to space on the uncrewed Exploration Flight Test-1 (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.

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.

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.

NASA TV will provide several hours of live coverage

Delta 4 Heavy rocket and super secret US spy satellite roar off Pad 37 on June 29, 2012 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA’s Orion EFT-1 capsule will blastoff atop a similar Delta 4 Heavy Booster in December 2014. Credit: Ken Kremer- kenkremer.com
Here’s how Orion EFT-1 Launch will look!
Delta 4 Heavy rocket and super secret US spy satellite roars off Pad 37 on June 29, 2012, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA’s Orion EFT-1 capsule will blastoff atop a similar Delta 4 Heavy Booster in December 2014. Credit: Ken Kremer- kenkremer.com

Watch for Ken’s ongoing Orion coverage and he’ll be onsite at KSC in the days leading up to 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

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

………….

Learn more about Orion, SpaceX, Antares, NASA missions and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events:

Dec 1-5: “Orion EFT-1, SpaceX CRS-5, Antares Orb-3 launch, Curiosity Explores Mars,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings

IMG_7780a_Delta 4 Heavy_Ken Kremer

Dive teams attach tow lines to Orion test capsule during Aug. 15 recovery test at Norfolk Naval Base, VA.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Dive teams attach tow lines to Orion test capsule during Aug. 15, 2013 recovery test at Norfolk Naval Base, VA. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Orion on Track at T MINUS 1 Week to First Blastoff – Photos

At T MINUS 1 Week on this Thanksgiving Holiday, all launch processing events remain on track for the first blast off of NASA’s new Orion crew vehicle on Dec. 4, 2014 which marks the first step on the long road towards sending Humans to Mars in the 2030s.

Orion will lift off on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket on its inaugural test flight to space on the uncrewed Exploration Flight Test-1 (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.

Technicians and engineers installed Orion’s batteries and have been conducting a thorough checkout of all the electrical and battery connections between the crew module, service module and Delta IV Heavy second stage while working inside the mobile service tower at pad 37.

With access doors at Space Launch Complex 37 opened, the Orion and Delta IV Heavy stack is visible in its entirety inside the Mobile Service Tower where the vehicle is undergoing launch preparations.  Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
With access doors at Space Launch Complex 37 opened, the Orion and Delta IV Heavy stack is visible in its entirety inside the Mobile Service Tower where the vehicle is undergoing launch preparations. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

There is some margin time available in the schedule in case additional testing and checkouts are required.

Orion’s launch window opens at 7:05 a.m. EST on Dec. 4 at the beginning of a launch window that extends 2 hours, 39 minutes.

One week ago, top NASA and Lockheed Martin managers gave the “GO” to continue with launch preparations after the vehicle passed the Flight Readiness Review (FRR) on Thursday, Nov. 20.

This past week the doors of the Mobile Servicing Tower (MST) at pad 37 were opened to reveal the Orion spacecraft stack atop the Delta IV Heavy that will carry the spacecraft into orbit.

NASA's Orion EFT-1 spacecraft atop Delta 4 Heavy Booster at Cape Canaveral, Florida ahead of launch set for Dec. 4, 2014.   Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
NASA’s Orion EFT-1 spacecraft atop Delta 4 Heavy Booster at Cape Canaveral, Florida ahead of launch set for Dec. 4, 2014. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The Delta IV Heavy is the world’s most powerful rocket.

The MST will be rolled back from the rocket stack on Wednesday evening, Dec. 3 starting 8 hours, 15 minutes before launch to allow the rocket to be fueled and continue into the final stage of launch operations and the countdown to liftoff on Thursday morning Dec. 4.

I’ll be at the pad during MST rollback reporting live for Universe Today.

Orion’s move to Launch Complex-37. Credit: Mike Killian
Orion’s move to Launch Complex-37. Credit: Mike Killian

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.

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.

NASA’s Orion EFT 1 crew module enters the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on Sept. 11, 2014 at the Kennedy Space Center, FL, beginning the long journey to the launch pad and planned liftoff on Dec. 4, 2014.  Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com
NASA’s Orion EFT 1 crew module enters the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on Sept. 11, 2014 at the Kennedy Space Center, FL, beginning the long journey to the launch pad and planned liftoff on Dec. 4, 2014. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Watch for Ken’s ongoing Orion coverage and he’ll be onsite at KSC in the days leading up to 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

………….

Learn more about Orion, SpaceX, Antares, NASA missions and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events:

Dec 1-5: “Orion EFT-1, SpaceX CRS-5, Antares Orb-3 launch, Curiosity Explores Mars,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings

These three RS-68 engines will power each of the attached Delta IV Heavy Common Booster Cores (CBCs) that will launch NASA’s maiden Orion on the EFT-1 mission in December 2014.   Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
These three RS-68 engines will power each of the attached Delta IV Heavy Common Booster Cores (CBCs) that will launch NASA’s maiden Orion on the EFT-1 mission in December 2014. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Orion flight test profile for the Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) launching on Dec. 4, 2014. Credit: NASA
Orion flight test profile for the Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) launching on Dec. 4, 2014. Credit: NASA

Orion Passes Key NASA Flight Review – “GO” for Maiden Test Flight on Dec. 4

After a decade of hard work, numerous twists and turns, and ups and downs, NASA’s new Orion deep space crew vehicle is finally, and officially, marching towards its maiden blastoff in less than two week’s time.

The Orion spacecraft cleared one of the final hurdles to its first launch when top managers from NASA and Lockheed Martin successfully completed a key review of the vehicle’s systems ahead of the looming Dec. 4 flight test.

Orion passed the Flight Readiness Review (FRR) on Thursday, Nov. 20, and officials announced that the spacecraft is “GO” for proceeding on the road to launch – and one day on to Mars!

The FRR is a rigorous assessment of the spacecraft, its systems, mission operations, and support functions needed to successfully complete Orion’s first voyage to space.

Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for Orion and recently completed its fabrication in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center in September 2014.

Orion in orbit in this artists concept.  Credit: NASA
Orion in orbit in this artists concept. Credit: NASA

Orion will lift off on a Delta IV Heavy rocket on its inaugural test flight to space on the uncrewed Exploration Flight Test-1 (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 United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket is the world’s most powerful rocket and the only booster sufficiently powerful to launch the 50,000 pound Orion EFT-1 spacecraft to orbit.

The rocket was transported to pad 37 in late September. Then, on Nov. 12, this path finding Orion spacecraft was itself rolled out to the launch pad and hoisted and bolted atop the Delta IV Heavy.

The United Launch Alliance Delta-IV Heavy rocket tasked with launching NASA’s Orion EFT-1 mission being hoisted vertical atop Space Launch Complex-37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on the morning of Oct. 1, 2014. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace
The United Launch Alliance Delta-IV Heavy rocket tasked with launching NASA’s Orion EFT-1 mission being hoisted vertical atop Space Launch Complex-37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on the morning of Oct. 1, 2014. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

The critical December test flight will pave the way for the first human missions to deep space in more than four decades since NASA’s Apollo moon landing missions ended in 1972.

To learn more about the major events and goals happening during Orion’s EFT-1 mission be sure to check out NASA’s cool new set of infographics explaining the 8 key events in my story – here.

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.

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.

NASA’s completed Orion EFT 1 crew module loaded on wheeled transporter during move to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHFS) on Sept. 11, 2014 at the Kennedy Space Center, FL.  Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com
NASA’s completed Orion EFT 1 crew module loaded on wheeled transporter during move to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHFS) on Sept. 11, 2014, at the Kennedy Space Center, FL. 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.

Watch for Ken’s ongoing Orion coverage and he’ll be onsite at KSC in the days leading up to 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

Orion flight test profile for the Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) launching on Dec. 4, 2014. Credit: NASA
Orion flight test profile for the Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) launching on Dec. 4, 2014. Credit: NASA
Side view shows trio of Common Booster Cores (CBCs) with RS-68 engines powering the Delta IV Heavy rocket resting horizontally in ULA’s HIF processing facility at Cape Canaveral that will launch NASA’s maiden Orion on the EFT-1 mission in December 2014 from Launch Complex 37.   Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Side view shows trio of Common Booster Cores (CBCs) with RS-68 engines powering the Delta IV Heavy rocket resting horizontally in ULA’s HIF processing facility at Cape Canaveral that will launch NASA’s maiden Orion on the EFT-1 mission in December 2014 from Launch Complex 37. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

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

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

NASA’s Pathfinding Orion Rolls to Launch Pad, Hoisted atop Rocket for Maiden Blastoff

After years of effort, NASA’s pathfinding Orion spacecraft was rolled out to the launch pad early this morning, Wednesday, Nov. 12, and hoisted atop the rocket that will blast it to space on its history making maiden test flight in December.

Orion’s penultimate journey began late Tuesday, when the spacecraft was moved 22 miles on a wheeled transporter from the Kennedy Space Center assembly site to the Cape Canaveral launch site at pad 37 for an eight hour ride.

Watch a timelapse of the journey, below:

Technicians then lifted the 50,000 pound spacecraft about 200 feet onto a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket, the world’s most powerful rocket, in preparation for its first trip to space.

Orion’s promise is that it will fly America’s astronauts back to deep space for the first time in over four decades since the NASA’s Apollo moon landing missions ended in 1972.

Liftoff of the state-of-the-art Orion spacecraft on the unmanned Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission is slated for December 4, 2014, from Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

“This is the next step on our journey to Mars, and it’s a big one,” said William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations.

“In less than a month, Orion will travel farther than any spacecraft built for humans has been in more than 40 years. That’s a huge milestone for NASA, and for all of us who want to see humans go to deep space.”

NASA's Orion spacecraft arrived at Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to complete its 22 mile move from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to deep space destinations, including an asteroid and on the journey to Mars. It will have emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. The first uncrewed flight test of Orion is scheduled to launch Dec. 4, 2014 atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket. Credit:  NASA/Kim Shiflett
NASA’s Orion spacecraft arrived at Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to complete its 22 mile move from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to deep space destinations, including an asteroid and on the journey to Mars. It will have emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. The first uncrewed flight test of Orion is scheduled to launch Dec. 4, 2014, atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Orion is NASA’s next generation human rated vehicle that will eventually 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 fully assembled Orion vehicle stack consists of the crew module, service module, launch abort system, and adapter that connect it to the Delta IV Heavy rocket. It was completed in October inside Kennedy’s Launch Abort System Facility.

Today’s move was completed without issue after a one day delay due to storms in the KSC area.

The triple barreled Delta IV Heavy booster became the world’s most powerful rocket upon the retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttle program in 2011 and is the only rocket sufficiently powerful to launch the Orion EFT-1 spacecraft.

The two-orbit, four and a half hour EFT-1 flight 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.

Orion will travel almost 60,000 miles into space during the uncrewed Dec. 4 test flight.

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

Ken Kremer