Managers from United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Lockheed Martin gave a “go” to proceed toward launch pending completion of open work during the Launch Readiness Review for Orion’s flight test. The weather is forecast to be 60 percent “go” for a scheduled liftoff at 7:05 a.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 4.
NASA TV will air an Orion Flight Test Status and Overview briefing at 1 p.m. today. On Dec. 3, a prelaunch status briefing will be held at 11 a.m. A NASA overview event with participation from social media followers will air at 1 p.m.
The Orion spacecraft will take crews farther from Earth than any human-rated spacecraft since Apollo. The first step of that adventure comes this week when the Orion flight test sends an uncrewed version of the capsule about 3,600 miles above Earth – far enough to encounter the high radiation zones that circle the planet and measure their effects on the inside of the spacecraft. On its way back home, Orion’s heat shield will bear the brunt of scorching plasma as the spacecraft dives into the atmosphere at 20,000 mph before slowing for splashdown.
It’s a stress test for more than the spacecraft, of course – people from NASA and Lockheed Martin along with scores of others involved in the program will watch every readout carefully. No matter what happens, the flight test has already made strides in development of America’s next deep-space vehicle for astronauts.