NASA Launches Orion Spacecraft on First Test Flight

Posted on December 5, 2014

NASA Orion test flight liftoff

NASA blasted its Orion spacecraft into space on its first test flight this morning from Space Launch Complex 37 at Florida's Cape Canveral Air Force Station. Orion was launched into space atop a United Launch Alliance Delta 4-Heavy rocket.

The 4.5-hour test flight will enable NASA to evaluate Orion's launch abort system, heat shield and parachute system. The heat shield has to protect the spacecraft from 4,000 degree temperatures. Orion will reach an altitude of 3,600 miles during the test flight. It will then splashdown in the Pacific Ocean where it will be recovered. The splashdown is expected around 11:29 a.m. EST. A UAV will provide coverage of Orion parachuting into the ocean.

CNN reports that the unmanned flight does have some cargo. It carries the names of over one million people on a microchip. It also contains Cookie Monster's cookie, Ernie's rubber ducky, an Apollo 11 spacesuit and oxygen hose and a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil.

Orion is designed to take astronauts into deep space. It will send astronauts to explore an asteroid as part of the Asteroid Redirect Mission as one of its early missions in the 2020s. Orion is the first spacecraft designed to send astronauts into deep space since the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 70s.

Here is a video of the Orion launch:

Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls

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