Orion EFT-1

Orion EFT-1NASA launches Exploration Flight Test 1, the maiden unmanned voyage of the next-generation Orion space vehicle which is intended to assume the Space Shuttle’s place as NASA’s primary manned spacecraft. Heavily instrumented, Orion is boosted to a high altitude of 3,600 miles during its second orbit, and returns to Earth at 20,000mph, the fastest return of a man-rated spacecraft since the Apollo lunar missions. The flight profile of the EFT-1 mission is similar to that of 1967’s Apollo 4 mission, though ongoing budget constraints force NASA to launch Orion atop a Delta IV Heavy booster rather than the Space Launch System booster for which Orion has been designed. This budget crunch also prevents the Orion program from moving forward at the pace of Apollo: the next Orion flight will not take place for several years. Orion EFT-1 is also the first American spacecraft to be recovered from sea after a splashdown since 1975’s Apollo-Soyuz mission.