NASA preps for first Orion test flight

Orion, featuring a composite heat shield, will launch, uncrewed, on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV heavy rocket on Thursday, Dec. 4.

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The first flight test of Orion, NASA’s next­-generation spacecraft that will send astronauts to an asteroid and onward to Mars, is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 4. NASA. Orion will launch, uncrewed, on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV heavy rocket at 7:05 a.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida, US. The window for launch is 2 hours, 39 minutes.

NASA TV launch commentary of the flight, designated Exploration Flight Test­1, begins at 4:30 a.m. and will continue through splashdown in the Pacific Ocean approximately 600 miles southwest of San Diego. During its 4.5-hour trip, Orion will orbit Earth twice and travel to an altitude of 5,794 km into space. The flight is designed to test many of the elements that pose the greatest risk to astronauts and will provide critical data needed to improve Orion’s design and reduce risks to future mission crews.

Orion features a new and unique composite heat shield, designed and fabricated by Lockheed Martin at its facility near Denver, CO, US. See link at right for CompositesWorld report on the heat shield. Over the next few days, a team of experts from Lockheed Martin and ULA will work to complete the connections between Orion and the launch vehicle in preparation for Orion's first flight on Dec. 4.

For NASA TV schedule and video streaming information, visit