NASA’s Orion Blog – Your Gateway to Orion News

We’re cutting the ribbon this week on our new Orion Blog to bring you the most up-to-date, official news and status on the development, flight testing and operations of NASA’s Orion spacecraft which is being designed and built to carry astronauts on deep space missions in the future to an asteroid and eventually to Mars. The Orion teams at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Kennedy Space Center in Florida and at other centers throughout the agency are preparing for the first flight test in December, a two-orbit, four-hour mission that will see an Orion spacecraft launched on a Delta IV-Heavy rocket without a crew so that engineers can evaluate its heat shield and other critical systems.

The mission calls for Orion to fly some 3,600 miles above Earth to achieve the speeds needed to test the heat shield in conditions approaching the demands of a return from deep space. It’s a fascinating flight profile that NASA has not flown with a human-rated spacecraft since Apollo. So check back here on the Orion Blog often and we’ll do our part to let you know what is going on with America’s newest spacecraft for human space exploration!

Fueled Orion Taken to LAS Facility

Orionmove-photo3NASA’s new Orion spacecraft will make its first trip to space in December. The spacecraft took a much shorter trip Sunday when it was moved from a specialized fueling facility at Kennedy Space Center to the Launch Abort System Facility to continue the preparations necessary for launch.

The launch abort system is designed to protect astronauts if a problem happens during launch, by pulling Orion away from a failing rocket. Because this first Orion flight will be uncrewed, the abort motor that would fire to pull the spacecraft away is not active. However, the jettison motor which will separate the launch abort system from the crew module in both emergencies and normal flights, is one of the critical systems being tested on Orion’s flight test.

Attached to an interstage, Orion will eventually be mounted to the top of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket and launched on a two-orbit, four-hour mission that will test the Orion heat shield under high speed conditions similar to those it will encounter when returning from deep space missions with astronauts aboard.