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NASA may bring Orion's test flight forward

Paul Sutherland and Ken Kremer
May 19, 2014, 21:09 UTC

Sen—The maiden flight of NASA’s new Orion spacecraft could be brought forward to September, Administrator Charles Bolden has told Sen in an exclusive interview.

The unmanned mission, dubbed Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), is currently scheduled for December this year.

It was put back three months from the original target date to make way for the launch of military surveilance satellites for the US Air Force.

But speaking exclusively to Sen blogger Ken Kremer, former astronaut Bolden revealed that the original launch slot could be reinstated and NASA was keeping all options open.

The team of engineers and scientists are working to have the spacecraft in place to launch in September, whatever date is finally picked. “The vehicle will be ready to fly in September,” Bolden told Sen.

Charles Bolden

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden with a mock-up of the Orion crew capsule at Johnson Space Center, Houston, in 2011. Image credit: NASA

The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle will be blasted into space on its test flight atop America’s most powerful rocket, the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy.

It will fly further from Earth than any spacecraft designed for humans since the end of the Apollo programme, reaching a distance of 5,800 km (3,600 miles). An important part of the mission will be to test Orion’s heat shield when the capsule re-enters the atmosphere at a speed of around 32,000 kilometres per hour (20,000 mph).

Ken talked with Bolden, who flew four times on the space shuttle, including the mission to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

Read the full interview in Ken’s blog for Sen.