A Delta IV Heavy rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying NASA's Orion spacecraft on an unpiloted flight test to Earth orbit. Liftoff was at 7:05 a.m. EST.Orion Spaceship Blasts Off at Dawn
The spacecraft on its way to its two-orbit, four-and-a-half hour mission high above and around Earth.
Terry W. Virts @AstroTerry/NASA
Astronauts on board the International Space Station watch the flight from their orbital perch.
A view during the separation of one of the Delta IV Heavy rocket boosters as it separates following liftoff.
An onboard camera captures separation of the three 13 by 14-foot Orion service module fairings following liftoff.
Orion's view of Earth from just under 3,000 miles above. That's just 600 miles shy of its peak altitude above Earth.
U.S. Navy ships stand ready to help recover Orion at the splashdown site in the Pacific.
Three main parachutes, measuring 116 feet in diameter each, help slow Orion's return to Earth.
In a mesmerizing new video released by NASA, the full reentry of the Orion test space vehicle is chronicled — and it’s a phenomenal 10-minute ride from fiery reentry to sudden splashdown into the Pacific Ocean, all put to dreamy space music.
On Dec. 5, Orion was blasted into space by a Delta 4 Heavy rocket in the first space worthiness test of the US space agency’s next-generation space vehicle. The successful test flight was intended to imitate the full force of slamming into the Earth’s atmosphere at velocities close to the speed a spacecraft would be traveling if it was on a return trajectory from a deep space origin.
The unmanned Orion test vehicle was sent on an elliptical orbit around the Earth, traveling a maximum distance of 3,604 miles from Earth, far beyond the orbit of the International Space Station. The manned version of Orion will will eventually be tasked with transporting astronauts to destinations beyond Earth orbit — an altitude an astronaut hasn’t traveled beyond since the Apollo era and the 1960′s and 70′s — to asteroids and, potentially, Mars.
So for now, we have this stunning video that gives us a capsule-eye view of reentry. For reference, the camera is looking ‘up’ from behind the capsule, so as Orion’s lager heat shield bears the brunt of atmospheric heating as it reenters through the stratosphere, we’re looking along the ionization trail of this man-made meteor as it dashes through the sky.