Orion EFT-1 Go for Launch on Thursday

Orion EFT-1 Go for Launch on Thursday

The Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) launch was given the green light today for launch at 7:05 am Eastern Standard Time (EST) on Thursday, December 4, 2014.  The weather
forecast is 60 percent favorable for launch that day.  December 5 and 6 are backup launch days.

The approximately 4.5 hour flight’s main purpose is to test the spacecraft’s heat shield.  This Orion test spacecraft — which has no one aboard — is the first vehicle ultimately intended to carry humans further from Earth than the International Space Station (ISS) since the Apollo program, which ended in the 1970s.  EFT-1’s highest point (apogee) of 3,600 miles is 15 times higher than the ISS orbit.

The first flight of an Orion carrying a crew is not expected until at least 2021.   In 2017 or 2018, another unoccupied vehicle will be flown on the first test of the Space Launch System (SLS), a new “heavy lift” rocket under development by NASA.  SLS and Orion are designed to take astronauts beyond low Earth orbit (LEO) — to orbit the Moon and someday to orbit Mars.   NASA has been holding a number of media events highlighting that Orion is part of a “journey to Mars,” even though that destination is decades in the future.

Orion is built by Lockheed Martin and NASA stresses that this is a commercial launch — not a NASA launch.  NASA is buying data from Lockheed Martin about the spacecraft’s performance.  Lockheed Martin procured the launch on a Delta IV rocket from the United Launch Alliance (ULA).  Lockheed Martin and Boeing co-own ULA.

Launch is from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the launch window is 2 hours and 40 minutes long.   After two orbits of the Earth, the EFT-1 mission will splash down in the Pacific, where the spacecraft will be recovered and returned to NASA for use in a later test flight.  


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