NASA Launches Orion on 1st Test Flight

Orion-launchAn unmanned version of NASA‘s Orion spacecraft launched after 7 a.m. Eastern time Friday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to carry out a test flight to determine its potential for human exploration of the solar system.

The Wall Street Journal reports Orion will work to reach an altitude of up to 3,600 miles above Earth during its five-hour test in an effort to evaluate how Orion’s electronic systems react to radiation increases and the functions of its heat shield and parachutes upon re-entry.

Orion, built by Lockheed Martin, was originally scheduled to launch Thursday but NASA postponed liftoff to Friday because of wind conditions and issues with the spacecraft’s fuel valves.

The Journal reports Orion is built to initially enter Earth’s atmosphere at approximately 20,000 miles per hour, then slow to around 17 miles per hour prior to its splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

According to Reuters, Orion is scheduled to splashdown at around 11:30 a.m. and its heat shield will reach a 4,000-degree temperature during re-entry.

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