NASA will launch the Lockheed Martin-built Orion unmanned spacecraft this week as part of the agency’s efforts to build capability for future space missions that would bring humans to Mars, Bloomberg Businessweek reported Tuesday.
Justin Bachman writes that this first test flight will bring Orion 3,600 miles into space with the help of United Launch Alliance‘s Delta IV rocket.
“My hope is that when we fly the capsule… it will energize the public and energize that middle schooler [who] isn’t quite sure what he wants to do, but he likes math and science,” Richard Boitnott, lead test engineer at NASA’s Langley Research Center, told the publication.
Orion will carry 1,200 sensors for the flight on Thursday, which will test the spacecraft’s thermal shield and launch abort system, the report said.
The test flight will span a total of four hours and 24 minutes before the spacecraft’s splashdown into the Pacific Ocean.
Bachman reports that it will take another three years before the next test flight, while the first manned flight is not scheduled until around 2020.
The spacecraft can carry four astronauts into space, but the report said NASA is still developing technologies to support Mars-bound flights, the first of which could happen around 2035.