|Artist’s illustration of the EFT-1 Orion in orbit, following a planned launch atop a Delta-IV Heavy booster in September 2014 [NASA].|
In less than two years’ time, NASA intends to loft its first unmanned Orion spacecraft on the long-awaited Exploration Flight Test (EFT)-1 mission atop United Launch Alliance’s gigantic Delta IV Heavy booster. The mission, which will rise to a maximum altitude of 3,600 miles—the highest a human-capable vehicle has flown since the end of the Apollo era—will serve to wring out many of Orion’s systems in readiness for its first Exploration Mission in late 2017. NASA took one step toward the EFT-1 goal yesterday (Thursday), by completing the latest in a series of parachute drop tests of a mock-up vehicle at the US Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. The test confirmed that Orion could land safely even if one of its two parachutes failed to open during the critical final stages of descent.
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