The Next Step in Manned Spaceflight: Orion to Launch Aboard Delta IV Heavy in First Test Flight

Illustrations Courtesy: NASA & United Launch Alliance
Richard Weakley / Advertising Manager

NASA’s Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1) on Dec. 4 will be NASA’s most ambitious test flight since Ares 1-X in 2009. EFT-1 will test Orion, America’s next generation spacecraft that will take our astronauts beyond low Earth Orbit for grand expeditions into space. Orion will launch atop a Delta IV Heavy from the storied Space Launch Complex (SLC) 37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Before SLC 37B was transformed to begin launching Delta IV rockets in 2003, the launch complex served as the launch site for the Saturn IB. The Saturn IB was the vehicle that launched the Apollo capsules on their first test flights. Just like the Apollo capsule launched from SLC 37B atop a Saturn IB during its flight testing phase before moving to the Saturn V at Launch Complex 39, the Orion spacecraft will launch from SLC 37B on a test flight before moving to the Space Launch System at LC 39.

The launch window for EFT-1 begins on Dec. 4 at 7:05 a.m. EST and extends until 9:44 a.m. EST. This windows opens four minutes after sunrise for a spectacular launch silhouetted  by the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. The flight test will last four hours and 23 minutes, encircling the Earth twice. The Orion spacecraft will reach an altitude 3,600 miles and re-enter the atmosphere at 20,000 miles per hour at maximum temperatures of 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The 78,010 lb weight of the Orion spacecraft and all associated equipment required the use of America’s most powerful launch vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy.  This flight test will evaluate the Orion Crew Module, Service Module, Launch Abort System and Orion-to-Stage Adapter.

Image Courtesy: NASA

Image Courtesy: NASA