NASA aims to launch an early test flight of its Orion crew exploration vehicle from Cape Canaveral in 2014 to test its heat shield and other atmospheric reentry systems, officials said today.
The most likely launch vehicle: A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy that would fly out of Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Officials at NASA Headquarters said the agency is proposing to add the unmanned flight test to the Orion development contract it has with American aerospace giant Lockheed Martin.
The flight test would support the development of the Space Launch System, a heavy-lift rocket NASA aims to develop to send astronauts on missions beyond Earth orbit.
Exploration Flight Test, or EFT-1, would fly two orbits to a high-apogee, with a high-energy re-entry through Earth's atmosphere. Orion will make a water landing in the Pacfic Ocean. The spacecraft would be recovered by Kennedy Space Center workers using operations planned for future human exploration missions.