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Orion Test Launch Preparations in 'Final Stretch'

Oct 02, 2014 10:32 PM EDT

The historic first test flight of the deep space Orion spacecraft is nearly upon us, and last Tuesday the final steps for preparing for this momentous occasion were taken.

"We've been working toward this launch for months, and we're in the final stretch," Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana said in a recent statement. "Orion is almost complete and the rocket that will send it into space is on the launch pad. We're 64 days away from taking the next step in deep-space exploration."

The final deep space mission rocket, NASA's flagship Space Launch System (SLS), is still in the midst of its practical development stage. So for the Orion's first few launches, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket was rolled out of the Horizontal Integration Facility near Space Launch Complex 37 in the evening Sept. 30, and made the trek to the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Just yesterday, the nearly 180-foot-tall launch vehicle was carefully lifted into the vertical launch-ready position using NASA's Fixed Pad Erector and then raised into the Mobile Service Tower on the pad. (Scroll to read on...)

"We reviewed launch site processing and preparations to make sure everything that is necessary to proceed with putting the rocket on the pad has been completed," added Merri Anne Stowe of NASA's Launch Services Program (LSP) Systems Integration Branch.

Now, as the rocket stands ready for its Dec. 4 launch of Exploration Flight Test-1, Lockheed Martin and NASA engineers scramble to prepare the spacecraft for its flight.

"This is a tremendous milestone and gets us one step closer to our launch later this year," said Tony Taliancich, ULA's director of East Coast Launch Operations. "The team has worked extremely hard to ensure this vehicle is processed with the utmost attention to detail and focus on mission success."

During the mission, the spacecraft will travel 3,600 miles in altitude above the Earth and return home at speeds of 20,000 mph. Nature World News previously reported what exactly the first flight will test, and you can learn more here.

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