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NASA's Orion spacecraft arrives at launch pad for tests

tech reviews Updated: Nov 13, 2014 14:39 IST

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NASA's Orion spacecraft, which is designed to carry astronauts to deep space destinations like Mars, arrived Wednesday at its launch pad - Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Orion is slated for liftoff on its first unmanned orbital test flight, dubbed Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), Dec 4.

Orion will travel almost 96,600 km into space Dec 4 during an unmanned flight designed to test many of the spacecraft's systems before it begins carrying astronauts on missions to deep space destinations.

On arrival at Space Launch Complex 37, Orion was hoisted up about 200 feet and placed atop the Delta IV Heavy rocket that will carry it into orbit.

Over the course of the three weeks that remain until liftoff, the spacecraft will be fully connected to the rocket and powered on for final testing and preparations

"This is the next step on our journey to Mars, and it is a big one," said William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations.

It will have an emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities.

"We have put a lot of work into designing, building and testing the spacecraft to get it to this point and I couldn't be prouder of the whole team," said Mark Geyer, Orion Programme manager.

The flight will allow engineers to test systems critical to safety, including the heat shield, parachutes, avionics and altitude control.