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NASA powers up Orion for the first time


October 29, 2013

Technicians powering up Orion (Image: Lockheed Martin)

Technicians powering up Orion (Image: Lockheed Martin)

NASA took another step back into the astronaut-launching business when it announced on Monday that last week it had powered up the crew capsule of the Orion spacecraft for the first time. According to the space agency, the test of the spacecraft’s avionics systems, conducted at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is a major milestone in preparing the craft for its first unmanned test flight in the autumn of next year.

The power-up of the Orion is the culmination of a year of assembly and testing of NASA's first-ever manned deep-space craft,which has seen over 66,000 parts installed so far. However, last week’s test was more than just seeing if the lights would go on without blowing a fuse. It was also a test of the capsule’s new power and data distribution system that NASA claims to “use state-of-the-art networking capabilities.” The space agency says that the power and avionics performed as expected.

The real test for the avionics will come next year, when the completed Orion will be fitted atop a Delta IV heavy rocket for an unmanned mission designated Exploration Flight Test-1(EFT-1). During EFT-1, the Orion will be launched into an orbit that will take it over 3,600 mi (5,800 km) away from Earth. The reason for this is that when Orion circles back home, it will be moving at the same speed as a returning deep space mission. It will hit the atmosphere at 20,000 mph (32,000 km/h) and the heat shield will be subjected to a temperature of 4,000º F (2,200º C) – conditions not experienced by a manned spacecraft since the Apollo missions.

"Orion will take humans farther than we've ever been before, and in just about a year we're going to send the Orion test vehicle into space," says Dan Dumbacher, NASA's deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development in Washington. "The work we're doing now, the momentum we're building, is going to carry us on our first trip to an asteroid and eventually to Mars. No other vehicle currently being built can do that, but Orion will, and EFT-1 is the first step."

Source: NASA

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

NASA keeps talking about using Orion to go to an asteroid or to Mars, but clearly this craft is far too small to sustain a crew and supplies and equipment to get them there and back. The space shuttle couldn't do it and it's much, much larger. This is not like going to the Moon for a few days; we're talking months or even several years. When they can show us what those delivery systems look like, then I'll start thinking of the Orion as a taxicab, and then I'll start getting excited.

Rolf Hawkins

Rolf, you can't be blamed for you're frustration with the pace of efforts to get man to Mars. But, one reason for this may be that the place simply isn't habitable long term. At least until someone finds a way to boost our immunity to large servings of radiation.

Ross Jenkins

I can not believe we still blasting people off the planet. It is all the same principles and attitude for decades. NASA ,in my opinion , is money making show business with underachieving attitude commanded from controlling entities!


@Rolf, got this from Wikipedia:

The crew module will have 316 cubic feet (8.9 m3) and capabilities of carrying four astronauts for 21 day flights itself which could be expanded through additional service modules."

So this core module can be extended by adding more modules for longer journeys. Riaanh

No it won't take people far as SpaceX will take that job away from them with a far better capsule at a fraction of the price.


Should be interesting to see how this mission goes. However, I think @jerryd is right - SpaceX will probably do it better (and at much lower cost).


I wonder why it's using a grid of squares and rectangles instead of an isogrid pattern?

Gregg Eshelman

@ Ross Jenkins - Haven't you heard? 'We' will be going there in 2023!


Martin Winlow

When SpaceX perfects its Grasshopper reusable rocket concept, its cost of launch to orbit (halfway to everywhere) will drop by at least a factor of 100. (Think non-reusable jetliners to understand today's costs.)

Brian Hall

ya, this is a big let down, a waste of time and money here.

21 days ! no even close to going to mars. too small and looks like they cant even stand or fully move around.

this is hype and a waste.

I think we can clearly do mars and send supplies and cargo pods up there , well ahead and all kinds of supplies and habitats.

But clearly, orion is nothing more than a pod to the moon, again, ugh.

mars should go the only goal here ! theres not even a 2nd bay or area for the crew to get out and work on things and get back in. this is just well, a hype and waste here.

the whole bottom is only 16 feet across ? wow ! that's pretty darn tiny !

Ryan Johnson
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