The spacecraft Orion is now in its final stages of preparation for its flight on December 4, 2014. This iconic test flight will put the Orion spacecraft through a series of vigorous tests and here are some interesting facts about its journey through space.

1. This uncrewed flight test will take the Orion 3,600 miles above Earth on a 4.5-hour mission to test many of the systems necessary for future human missions into deep space. Orion will launch atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex.

2. Mission control will loose communication with Orion twice during its orbit of the earth, once when its over the Indian Ocean on its first orbit and last when its re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. During this time the Orions guidance systems will control its movements until it is back into contact with mission control.

3. The Orion will pass through the Van Allen belt twice which 3600 miles above earth, a high radiation danger zone in space. Radiation like this can harm the electronic guidance systems and on-board computers and will put its shielding to the test as it cuts through the waves of radiation.

4. The Orion will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere at almost 20,000 miles per hour, and reach temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit which will create an envelope of hot plasma. This will result in its second communication loss with mission control. The re-entry will put the Orions heat shield to the test which is largest of its kind ever made.

5. The 3 main parachute canopies that slow the Orions descent are so large that they would cover a full American football field. The parachutes will help bring down the speed of the Orion from 20,000 miles per hour down to 20 miles per hour until it splashes down into the Pacific Ocean.

Image Source: NASA