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Friday, November 14, 2014

Orion Capsule Moves to NASA Launch Pad for Test Flight

As reported by the Denver PostNASA's new Colorado-made Orion spacecraft is now at the launch pad for next month's test flight.  

The spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems, was moved 22 miles overnight at Cape Canaveral, Fla., and reached the launch pad early Wednesday.

It was then hoisted into place on top of a Delta IV heavy rocket, made by Colorado-based United Launch Alliance, for the Dec. 4 launch.

In the next few weeks, the rocket and spacecraft will be integrated and powered up, and engineers will test and verify interfaces between the two in preparation for the test flight.

The test flight will last slightly more than four hours and will propel the unmanned capsule 3,600 miles from Earth, before returning it for a splashdown in the Pacific.  

Data collected during the flight will provide engineers insight into the performance of systems, including the massive Colorado-built heat shield, as well as avionics, parachute deployment and recovery operations, Lockheed said in a news release.

The information will be used to validate the spacecraft's design before it begins carrying human astronauts on deep-space exploration missions, including trips to Mars. Astronauts are expected to start flying on Orion in 2021. The capsules are built for four passengers, one more than the old Apollo spacecraft.