The Orion Spacecraft is the first of its kind built for personnel crew, meant to take humans farther than they have ever been before. Before the expedition that is scheduled for it in late 2018, the Space Launch System (SLS), NASA has made all the necessary preparations to its test ride.
Orion’s Flight Test Mission is to evaluate functional parameters in regards to launch off the surface and re-entry capabilities. Before it can securely be sent to explore our solar system and reach asteroids way outside our planet’s orbits, perhaps ultimately even Mars, it will have to be thoroughly trialed in realistic outer-space circumstances. Thus, the goal of the test mission is 4.5 hour flight that will take it over 3500 miles from Earth, then re-enter the atmosphere and return to surface. Its launch is scheduled on December the 4th 2014 at 7:04 AM and will test all key systems of the Orion spacecraft in a two-orbit mission.
All preparations for this revolutionary mission have been made, and the Orion shuttle is currently mounted on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy booster in Florida, USA, only undergoing last minute scans, with less than a week away from launch.
Naturally, the greatest concern in human expedition of outer space is the safety of the spacecraft. The stress that its outer shell is put to during launch and re-entering of the atmosphere is of staggering amounts, having to sustain integrity at speeds as high as 20,000 miles per hour, and temperatures that can go up to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Furthermore, the protective barriers surrounding the Earth have little to no effect so far off the surface, and researchers have to make sure the shuttle and its crew will not be endangered by the high levels of radiation present in outer space. Scientists at NASA claim that the Orion spacecraft is equipped with a heat shield 16.5 feet in diameter, the largest ever constructed in history. The main focus of Orion’s design has been the safety of human crew and backup systems that will ensure sustenance and survival in the harsh conditions of space and zero-gravity.
Scientists and other citizens alike are incredibly enthusiastic over this event that could change the course of our future. At the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, there has been a clock installed to count down days, hours, minutes and even second left until the launch of the Orion space shuttle on its first test mission: the Exploration Flight Test 1.