The Orion Spacecraft Is At the Launch Pad And Strapped To Its Rocket

Illustration for article titled The Orion Spacecraft Is At the Launch Pad And Strapped To Its Rocket

After a one-day delay from the original schedule, the Orion spacecraft rolled out to the launch pad in preparation for its December 4, 2014 test flight and was hoisted into position on its rocket.

Top image: The Orion spacecraft in front of the Launch Abort System Facility en route to Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: NASA/ Kim Shiflett

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Despite sharing a name with Project Orion, the epic conceptual spacecraft powered by atom bombs, this Orion is a real prototype for a different futuristic vision: one where humans venture into deep space, harness asteroids, and explore Mars in-person. The uncrewed test flight in December will be the first time the spacecraft is in flight, testing out service module, launch abort system, heat shield, and parachutes as an interconnected system for the first time.

Illustration for article titled The Orion Spacecraft Is At the Launch Pad And Strapped To Its Rocket

Test flight trajectory (left) and spacecraft modules (right). Image credits: NASA

The journey from building to pad was documented by the spacecraft's crew out to watch the monstrous vehicle's slow crawl around Cape Canaveral.

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The 35 kilometer (22 mile) journey from the building to the pad took roughly six hours. Here's a timelapse of the trip:

Illustration for article titled The Orion Spacecraft Is At the Launch Pad And Strapped To Its Rocket
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Orion in front of the launch pad. Image credit: NASA

Illustration for article titled The Orion Spacecraft Is At the Launch Pad And Strapped To Its Rocket
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Orion tucked into the service structure used to lift the spacecraft on top of the rocket. Image credit: NASA

Illustration for article titled The Orion Spacecraft Is At the Launch Pad And Strapped To Its Rocket
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Once at the pad the spacecraft was hoisted roughly 60 meters (200 feet) on top of the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket. The rocket was rolled out into position in late September. Lockheed Martin and United Launch Alliance crews spent will be checking over the rocket and spacecraft for the next three weeks, hooking up connections as the next stage of launch preparations.

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Cranes and pulleys hoist the Orion spacecraft into position on top of the ULA heavy rocket. Image credit: NASA

Illustration for article titled The Orion Spacecraft Is At the Launch Pad And Strapped To Its Rocket
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Hoisting the spacecraft onto the rocket. Image credit: NASA

The test flight sequence in December will pop the spacecraft into space, sending it on two orbits, then return to Earth.

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Illustration for article titled The Orion Spacecraft Is At the Launch Pad And Strapped To Its Rocket

Orion's test flight will have one small orbit followed by one longer orbit before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. Image credit: NASA

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Are you excited for the to watch this thing finally blast off? If this photo is any indication, the mission scientists, engineers, and crew are getting pretty antsy to send Orion out to run through its paces:

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Remember you can make a paper model of the spacecraft to decorate your desk, identify you to other excitable space-geeks, or run your own test flights.

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DISCUSSION

UraniumWilly
UraniumWilly

Does the fact that after the space shuttle they are going back to traditional capsules suggest the space shuttle was a failure, it seems that man space flight at the moment is just engineering stunts, the unmanned stuff is the real science. I guess if the goal of the manned space program is to just put people into space so we can say, see what we did, then any rube goldberg contraption that gets people into orbit is a success.

NASA: And for our next trick we will launch a circus performer and his pet elephant into space in a space craft made to look like a circus tent, we call this performance piece 'And the big top goes up' it represents mans inhumanity to man or some shit.

NASA Scientist (whispering to colleague): Thats nothing next year we plan to launch a blue whale into space in a exact replica of a klingon warbird, ya get it, like that star trek movie, I think we should also send a original macintosh so the whale can comically yell commands into the mouse, its going to be so awesome.