Skip to main content

Photos: Step-by-Step Guide to NASA's EFT-1 Orion Spacecraft Test Flight

Orion Re-Entry


NASA's Exploration Flight Test 1, or EFT-1, will mark the first-ever test flight of the agency's Orion spacecraft for deep-space exploration. The unmanned test flight, scheduled for Dec. 4, 2014, will send an unmanned Orion space capsule on a 4.5-hour spaceflight to simulate the re-entry of a mission to the moon. See how NASA's Orion EFT-1 space capsule test flight will work in this step-by-step guide from the U.S. space agency.

Testing a New Spacecraft

Aimee Crane/NASA

NASA scheduled the Orion capsule's first test flight for Dec. 4, 2014. The uncrewed spacecraft will travel to a height of 3,600 miles (5,800 km) and orbit Earth twice during a 4.5 hour mission

How It Works

By Karl Tate, Infographics Artist

NASA's first Orion spacecraft will fly to a distance of 3,600 miles (5,800 kilometers) in space in order to test its heat shield and resistance to radiation. See how NASA's EFT-1 Orion spacecraft test flight works in this infographic.

Step 1: Launch

Aimee Crane/NASA

Orion will lift off into space atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Step 2: Fairing/Escape Tower Separation

Aimee Crane/NASA

Protective fairings and the Launch Abort System both separate from the service module.

Step 3: Upper Stage Reignition

Aimee Crane/NASA

After the first orbit of Earth, the upper stage ignites to propel Orion capsule to an altitude of 3,600 miles.

Step 4: Orion Capsule Separation

Aimee Crane/NASA

The service module and upper stage separate from the Orion crew capsule.

Step 5: Ready for Re-entry

Aimee Crane/NASA

Orion crew module fires its control jets to orient itself for reentry.

Step 6: Return to Earth

Aimee Crane/NASA

Orion makes contact Earth's atmosphere at almost 20,000 mph and friction raises the capsule's heat shield temperature to near 4,000 degrees F.

Step 7: Parachute Descent

Aimee Crane/NASA

Orion slows to 300 mph due to air friction, but still requires parachutes to slow the speed to 20 mph for splashdown.

Step 8: Ocean Splashdown

Aimee Crane/NASA

Orion capsule will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean near the coast of Baja California. The United States Navy will assist with recovery.

Have a news tip, correction or comment? Let us know at