NASA TESTS DEEP SPACE PROGRAM by Kate M.
NASA TESTS DEEP SPACE PROGRAM
First Orion Mission Set for December 4
Kate M., Age 11, Florida
On Thursday, December 4 at 7:04 a.m. NASA will put its future deep space exploration program through its paces with its first test mission, Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1). Sitting atop the Delta IV Heavy rocket, currently the world’s most powerful rocket, NASA’s Orion Spacecraft will blast off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a 4.5 hour, two orbit mission. Although this test flight will not be crewed, Orion will travel farther than any crewed spacecraft has traveled in more than 40 years. It will orbit at about 3,600 miles above the Earth, approximately 16 times higher than the International Space Station (ISS).
After 4.5 hours in orbit, Orion will reenter the Earth’s atmosphere at a speed near 20,000 mph and reaching temperatures near 4,000-degrees Fahrenheit for an 11-parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. This will test the systems critical for safe human travel into deep space.
At first glance the Orion capsule design looks a lot like the Apollo design that got Americans to the moon in 1969. This design, however, was created with the latest materials and technologies made possible through 50 years of spaceflight experience. Orion is about 60% bigger than Apollo. Orion is 16.5 feet in diameter, 10.8 feet tall and weighs about 31,000 pounds. Compare this to Apollo which was 12.8 feet in diameter, 11.4 feet tall and weighed about 12,787 pounds. One of the biggest differences is the habitable volume of Orion’s 692 cubic feet cabin compared to Apollo’s 218 cubic feet. Additionally, Orion was designed with an open architecture so it can be upgraded as technologies change and improve.
If this test flight is successful, the next mission, Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), is scheduled to take place in 2018. During this mission NASA will test the brand new Space Launch Systems (SLS), the world’s most capable heavy-lift, exploration class rocket under development to take humans beyond Earth orbit and to Mars, and the Orion capsule together. The SLS will propel the Orion spacecraft, uncrewed, beyond low-Earth orbit.
The first Orion flight with astronauts, Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2), is scheduled for 2021. The intention of this mission is to send humans farther into space than ever before and return them home safely to Earth. The test flight on December 4 is just the first stepping stone in our journey into the unknown cosmos.
For more information about the Orion Flight Test visit http://www.nasa.gov/orion.