VIDEO: Report On Orion Spacecraft First Flight Test

By  //  June 21, 2014


ABOVE VIDEO: NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden helps mark T-6 months and counting to the launch of Orion on Exploration Flight Test-1 during a visit last week to the Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

BREVARD COUNTY • KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLORIDA – NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden helped mark T-6 months and counting to the launch of Orion on Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) during a visit on June 18 to the Operations and Checkout (O&C) Building high bay at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Charles Bolden
Charles Bolden

“This is a big deal for us. Behind me is a tangible piece to Mars,” Bolden said. “The Orion spacecraft is going to travel farther into space than humans have done in 40 years.”

EFT-1 is a critical part of NASA’s strategy and a big step forward on the path to Mars. Bolden said the test demonstrates how the Kennedy team continues to transform the center into a multi-user facility capable of many different kinds of launches.

“It’s possibly the most significant human spaceflight milestone this year, pointing toward our return with humans into deep space,” Bolden said. “Right now, NASA is building on knowledge gained through the International Space Station and more than 50 years of human spaceflight experience, solving difficult challenges that will enable humans to safely explore deep space.”

NASA Orion Program Manager Mark Geyer said the launch of Orion in six months is going to be visible evidence that the U.S. is still exploring.

Mark Geyer
Mark Geyer

“Work on this design sets us up for following missions,” Geyer said. “Orion will look remarkably similar for Exploration Missions 1 and 2. All of the systems that are flying on EFT-1 were designed from the beginning to be human-rated, to be able to fly people onboard.”

According to Lockheed Martin Orion Program Manager Cleon Lacefield, the first flight test is scheduled for Dec. 4. During the first high-orbital flight test, which will last a little more than four hours, Orion will travel 15 times further out into space than the space station currently is today.

Orion’s computers, software, guidance and control systems, separation events and heat shield will be tested during the flight.

Bob Cabana
Bob Cabana

“For the first time, since we went to the moon, we’re stacking a vehicle in this high bay that will allow us to explore beyond our home planet and one day put boots on Mars,” said Kennedy Director Bob Cabana. “That’s very exciting. This is a world-class manufacturing facility with a world-class team operating it.”

On June 10, the Orion crew module was moved to the Final Assembly and System Testing (FAST) cell and stacked on the service module. In the FAST cell, the integrated crew and service modules will be put through their final system tests prior to rolling out of the O&C for integration with the rocket.

“We are well on our way to establishing a human presence in our solar system. And when we leave planet Earth to do it, we’re going to be leaving from right here at Kennedy Space Center. Go Orion!” Cabana said. 

Orion will launch atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Launch Complex 37 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The two-orbit, four-hour flight test will help engineers evaluate the systems critical to crew safety, including the heat shield, parachute system and launch abort system.

LEFT TO RIGHT: Robert Cabana, Mark Geyer, Bill Nelson and Lori Garver. (NASA / Kim Shiflett image)
LEFT TO RIGHT: Robert Cabana, Mark Geyer, Bill Nelson and Lori Garver. (NASA / Kim Shiflett image)

After two orbits, Orion will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere at nearly 20,000 mph and a temperature of 4,000 degrees F. Its parachute system will deploy to slow the spacecraft for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

NASA’s Ground Systems Development and Operations Program and the U.S. Navy will retrieve Orion from the ocean, bring the spacecraft back to shore and prepare it for transport back to Kennedy.

Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to destinations not yet explored by humans, including an asteroid and Mars. The spacecraft will have emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep-space return velocities.