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The Orion spacecraft was successfully launched aboard a DeltaIV Heavy rocket today, December 5, 2014.  The operation is described as “nearly flawless.” The craft settled into the water at 8:29 am PST off the coast of San Diego. Orion floated 3,600 miles above Earth, which is 15 miles farther than the International Space Station (ISS). It completed two orbits around Earth before successfully splashing down. This was the first test (EFT-1) of a new vehicle intended to take humans to deep space. The SpaceX rocket Falcon Heavy, which has double the lift capacity of a Delta IV Heavy rocket, is assumed to take the responsibility of shuttling humans to the ISS with crewed missions beginning in 2017 while NASA focuses on deep space missions.

The next un-crewed Orion flight will occur in 2018. The first crewed mission of Orion is slated for 2021.

“We are going to Mars” – Tony Bruno, the CEO of United Launch Alliance.