NASA’s new Orion spacecraft successfully set out on its first maiden voyage shortly after 7 a.m. Friday, embarking on a test flight higher above the planet than any manned spacecraft has been in more than four decades. Orion did two orbits.
The early dawn launch was executed flawlessly, launching NASA into what the agency described as “the beginning of the Mars era.”
Orion has so far performed all of its mission objectives, including jettisoning its emergency-abort system; firing its second rocket stage into an orbit and a peak altitude of 3,604 miles above the Earth (14 times higher than the International Space Station); separating from its crew module and the second stage of its Delta IV Heavy rocket; and passing through the Van Allen radiation belts surrounding Earth, testing the crew module’s resistance to heavy radiation the craft will experience on deep space missions.
— NASA (@NASA) December 5, 2014
Next, Orion’s heat shield will be put to the test as the crew capsule re-enters the atmosphere at a speed of 20,000 m.p.h.– 80 percent of the return speed the craft would experience on a return trip from the moon, reaching temperatures up to 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit and deploying 11 parachutes for a ocean splashdown landing. (RELATED: Watch The First LIVE Launch Of NASA’s New Crewed Orion Spacecraft HERE)