Image Credit: NASA/Mike Chambers
The heat shield, which was built in in Massachusetts and delivered to KSC in early December, will protect the Orion spacecraft from 4,000 degree Fahrenheit re-entry temperatures.A test flight of the capsule is scheduled aboard a Delta 4 heavy-lift rocket in September 2014. That vehicle will be delivered to KSC from a United Launch Alliance facility in Alabama in the spring.
During Exploration Flight Test-1, the Orion spacecraft will fly 3,600 miles above the Earth during two orbits before re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.According to NASA, “Once the heat shield has done its job getting Orion through the Earth’s atmosphere after its two orbits around Earth, it will be up to the parachutes to do the heavy lifting, literally. A total of 11 parachutes will be used for various landing functions, but three main parachutes that together could almost cover a football field ultimately will slow Orion’s descent down to less than 20 miles per hour for the finale: a relatively gentle splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.”