NASA’s Orion to Roll out to Launch Pad for First Flight

15694341676_8422212af4_oNASA’s Orion spacecraft is set to roll out of the Launch Abort System Facility (LASF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to its launch pad at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 37 on Monday Nov. 10, in preparation for liftoff next month on its first space flight.

At 4:30 p.m. EST, NASA Television will air a news briefing live from the LASF before Orion’s move. Participating will be Robert Cabana, Kennedy Space Center director; Ellen Ochoa, Johnson Space Center director; Mark Geyer, Orion Program manager; and Mike Hawes, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company director of Human Space Flight Programs.

The spacecraft will start its journey to the launch pad at 8 p.m. The rollout will not be carried live on NASA TV, but highlights of the move will air on NASA TV’s Video File segments and the agency’s website starting Tuesday morning, Nov. 11. The spacecraft is expected to reach Space Launch Complex 37 at about 2 a.m., Tuesday.

Orion Team Details Flight Test in Briefing


Some of the key players in the Orion flight test will discuss the goals of the first spaceflight for NASA’s newest spacecraft along with the elements of the mission itself during a televised briefing today from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The briefing will begin at 11 a.m. EST and can be seen on NASA TV and on the NASA TV stream on the web at

The briefing participants are:

  • William Hill, deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development
  • Mark Geyer, Orion Program manager
  • Bryan Austin, Lockheed Martin mission manager
  • Mike Sarafin, Orion flight director
  • Jeremy Graeber, recovery director
  • Ron Fortson, United Launch Alliance director of mission management

15475153276_b62287fe20_oOrion will not carry a crew during this first flight test, but will be sent into orbit atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket. It will make two orbits of the Earth reaching out about 3,600 miles, 15 times farther than the International Space Station. In a critical element of the test mission, the spacecraft will head into Earth’s atmosphere at high speed to evaluate Orion’s heat shield. That is important because the Orion is designed to take astronauts into deep space on missions to asteroids and eventually Mars. Returning to Earth on such missions means the spacecraft will reenter the atmosphere much faster than previous spacecraft, so the Orion will encounter more heat and thus its shielding will need to be strong enough to handle it.

Launch Teams Rehearse Fueling, Countdown

DeltaIV-wetdressThe launch teams that will work together Dec. 4 to launch the Orion spacecraft practiced the countdown today that will included fueling the core stages of the Delta IV Heavy rocket that will lift Orion on its unmanned flight test. Working in control rooms at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, countdown operators followed the same steps they will take on launch day. The simulation also allowed controllers to evaluate the fuel loading and draining systems on the complex rocket before the Orion spacecraft is placed atop the launcher next week.

DeltaIVinstandThe Delta IV Heavy – seen on the left as it was when rolled to the pad – is made up of three core stages, each powered by cryogenic liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, some of the coldest materials known. The second stage of the rocket also uses the same cryogenic propellants. During the actual flight test, Orion will be launched on a two-orbit mission that will reach 3,600 miles above Earth and take the spacecraft more than 60,000 miles before Orion’s heat shield is tested with a high-speed reentry through the atmosphere. That portion of the test will give engineers what they need to make sure the heat shield can withstand the searing conditions of bringing back astronauts from missions into deep space destinations including, eventually, Mars.

8 Things to Look for During Orion’s Flight

Graphics by Aimee Crane, words by Sarah Schlieder

EFT1_InfoG Orion is launching December 4 on its first test flight. This launch involves more than just a rocket that goes WOOSH! Orion will reach a height of 3,600 miles—15 times higher than the International Space Station—and orbit the Earth twice during the 4.5 hour mission. Want a closer look at what will take place during flight? Here are the eight things you can expect to see on Orion’s first flight. Orionsketch1




It’s going to be loud. It’s going to be bright. It’s going to be smoky. Engines are fired, the countdown ends and Orion lifts off into space atop the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida.



It’s time to fly! The protective panels surrounding the service module are jettisoned and the launch abort system separates from the spacecraft.

Orionsketch3 Re-ignition

Orbit 1 is complete! The upper stage will now fire up again to propel Orion to an altitude of 3,600 miles during its second trip around Earth.



It’s now time to prepare for reentry. The service module and upper stage separate so that only the crew module will return to Earth.



Orion’s first flight will be uncrewed, but that doesn’t mean we can allow Orion to return to Earth upside down. This test flight will help us test the control jets to ensure that they can orient the capsule in the correct reentry position.

Things are heating up as Orion slams into the atmosphere at almost 20,000 mph and encounters temperatures near 4,000 degrees F.   Orionsketch7


After initial air friction slows the capsule from 20,000 mph, Orion will still be descending at 300 mph—too fast for a safe splashdown. A sequence of parachute deployments will create drag to further slow the spacecraft to a comfortable 20 mph.



Orion will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California, where it will be recovered with help from the United States Navy.

Orion’s first flight has been successfully completed. Next step: deep space.

See this graphic as one page.

NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Complete


NASA’s new Orion spacecraft received finishing touches Thursday, marking the conclusion of construction on the first spacecraft designed to send humans into deep space beyond the moon, including a journey to Mars that begins with its first test flight Dec. 4.

The assembled Orion crew module, service module, launch abort system and adapter will reside in Kennedy’s Launch Abort System Facility until its scheduled rollout to the launch pad, set for Nov. 10. At the launch pad, it will be lifted onto the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket that will carry it into space for its uncrewed flight test.

“This is just the first of what will be a long line of exploration missions beyond low earth orbit, and in a few years we will be sending our astronauts to destinations humans have never experienced,” said Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development “It’s thrilling to be a part of the journey now, at the beginning.”

The December flight test will send Orion 3,600 miles from Earth on a two-orbit flight intended to ensure the spacecraft’s critical systems are ready for the challenges of deep space missions.

During the 4.5-hour flight, called Exploration Flight Test-1, Orion will travel farther than any crewed spacecraft has gone in more than 40 years, before returning to Earth at speeds near 20,000 mph and generating temperatures up to 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fairing Installed Over Orion

ogivecompleteEngineers installed a four-piece fairing over Orion during the weekend as the spacecraft continues its steady march toward launch in December. The panels will smooth the airflow over the conical spacecraft to limit sound and vibration, which will make for a much smoother ride for the astronauts will ride inside Orion in the future. The work marked the final major assembly steps for the spacecraft before it is taken to the launch pad in November and hoisted to the top of  a Delta IV Heavy rocket that will launch it on a four-hour, two-orbit flight test. Orion will fly without a crew on this flight test, but is being designed to take astronauts beyond Earth orbit on missions to deep space to explore an asteroid and eventually Mars.ogiveinstall1

Fly Your Name on Orion


NASA’s Orion spacecraft is preparing for its upcoming flight test in December, and you can submit your name to be flown on the flight! Submit your name by following this link and your first and last name will be digitized and placed on a dime-sized microchip that will be stowed inside the uncrewed Orion spacecraft as it makes two orbits reaching up to about 3,600 miles above Earth before coming back and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. Your name will also make it farther out into space on future exploration missions by NASA, too! You have until Oct. 31 to sign up to send your name into orbit and take this chance to write your name across the sky.


Launch Abort System Installed for Orion Mission

2014-4196Technicians and engineers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida installed the Launch Abort System atop the Orion spacecraft Friday as launch preparations continue for December’s launch. The LAS, as it is known, will not be active during this flight test but would, during future flights, be equipped to act within milliseconds to pull the spacecraft and its astronaut crew away from its rocket so the Orion could parachute back to Earth safely. For the upcoming Orion flight test, the LAS will have an active jettison motor so it can pull itself and the nose fairing away from the spacecraft just before Orion goes into orbit.