VIDEO: Orion Spacecraft Successfully Launches from Launch Pad 37, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

VIDEO: Beautiful liftoff of NASA’s Orion spacecraft with an an uncrewed test flight from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

NASA successfully launched its Orion Spacecraft without a crew as planned. The spacecraft launched atop a Delta IV rocket is in its early testing phase for an eventual trip planned to take astronauts to Mars.

The next test launch of the Orion Spacecraft is scheduled to occur in 2017. The mission will send Orion around the far side of Earth’s Moon and back again. Orion’s second mission will also be the first launch of the NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), which is designed to launch beyond low Earth orbit (LEO).

The 2017 SLS rocket will be 164 feet taller than the Delta IV Heavy that launched Orion today, and 36 feet taller than the Saturn V rocket that took the Apollo astronauts to the Moon.

Human crews are expected to launch to Mars for a fly-by orbit of the planet in the mid-2030s. The mission will require that they dock with a deep space habitat — required as a living quarters for the four-person crew to live in for the nine-month voyage to Mars. The Orion command module is being built by Lockheed Martin, but the deep space habitat will probably require international collaboration.

The Orion spacecraft completed its 22-mile, 6-hour journey from the Launch Abort System Facility at Kennedy Space Center, to launch pad 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida and was mated to the United Launch Alliance Delta IV prior to today’s launch.

Wikimapia: Cape Canaveral showing Launch Pad 37 (lower right) and Space X Launch Pad upper right. Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) is a space transport services company headquartered in Hawthorne, California with plans for enabling the colonization of Mars, but initially transporting cargo to the International Space Station (ISS).

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