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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Orion Now 20-Months from Test Flight

The new Orion spacecraft is on target for a September 2014 test flight from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta-IV Heavy on the uncrewed Exploration Flight Test-1 mission (EFT-1).
The spacecraft will travel 3,600 miles above Earth's surface. This is 15 times farther than the International Space Station's orbit and farther than any spacecraft designed to carry humans has gone in more than 40 years. The main flight objective is to test Orion's heat shield performance at speeds generated during a return from deep space.
Orion will reenter Earth's atmosphere at speeds of more than 20,000 mph and upon slowing in the upper Earth's atmosphere, the spacecraft will have multiple parachutes to bring it to a safe splashdown.

If all continues to go as planned, the Orion spacecraft will be placed atop of the Space Launch System in 2017 for testing with a  circumlunar trajectory on Exploration Mission-1. Humans will fly the Orion spacecraft around the Moon sometime between 2019 and 2021 on Exploration Mission-2.

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