On Thursday, NASA takes its first step towards its return to manned spaceflight. The Orion space capsule will blast off atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket. It will mark a return to the old days for NASA.
The unmanned mission, dubbed Exploration Flight Test-1, will fly nearly 3,600 miles from Earth. Then, it will rocket back towards our planet to test the capsule’s capabilities including heat shield, avionics and more.
Here’s a video NASA released back in October showing what will happen on Thursday.
Thursday’s test flight pushes space flight to heights not seen since the early 1970s. In fact, no human-space flight vehicle has traveled past low-Earth orbit since the Apollo missions.
NASA released a cool infographic highlighting each step of Thursday’s test flight.
The biggest obstacle for Thursday’s launch will be weather. Meteorologists give the Orion launch a 60% chance of acceptable launch conditions. Clouds and showers could develop in the area. High winds may also present an issue for the launch.
Engineers are putting the final touches on the capsule to get it ready for Thursday.
“No one will ride aboard Orion, but the spacecraft is carrying numerous sensors to measure conditions throughout the mission, including radiation and temperatures inside the crew module as it reaches 3,600 miles above Earth and then plunges through the atmosphere before opening its chutes and splashing down,” reads a NASA blog post.
You can watch the launch live starting at 4:30am ET on Thursday. The launch window opens at 7:05 am ET and will last about 2 hours and 40 minutes.
Image credits: NASA