NASA’s Orion Spacecraft is about the engage in its very first unmanned test flight. A successful test flight for Orion is a big deal for the future of human space exploration. That’s why we’re paying very close attention to this event. Here’s what you can expect to happen on Thursday, December 4th.
The scheduled launch time is 7:05 A.M. Eastern Time from Cape Canaveral Florida. If weather can be a factor to launch fortunately there is a window of 2 hours and 39 minutes to still get the launch off or else it will be postponed to another day. In the future, Orion will be launched by a different rocket system, but for this test flight it will be riding on a Delta IV Heavy Rocket. After launch the whole test flight will take 4.5 hours as the spacecraft makes two orbits around the Earth before coming back to ground.
There are several systems that need to be tested during this launch. First test is the separation or jettison of the protective coverings that keep Orion safe from the atmosphere during launch. Once in space, these casings are no longer necessary and removing them will lighten the spacecraft. After an initial orbit, the Upper Stage Rockets will boost the spacecraft into a very high orbit of about 3,600 miles. The last stage of testing will be the reentry capsule. NASA needs to see if the capsule can handle the intense temperatures and pressures that the spacecraft will experience on the return to Earth. The parachutes will also need to deploy successfully to ensure a nice soft landing. Let’s hope for the best!
If you are not fortunate enough to live close enough to Cape Canaveral to watch the liftoff in person you can watch coverage of the event on NASA TV or http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html# online.
For a look at the detailed sequence of events during the test flight, check out this article: http://space.io9.com/heres-what-to-expect-during-the-first-orion-test-flight-1654607626/+AnnaleeNewitz
Soundtrack Info: “Running Fanfare” by Kevin MacLeod under the Creative Commons Attribution license. It can be found here: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Kevin_MacLeod/Classical_Sampler/Running_Fanfare