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Homechevron_rightTechnologychevron_rightNASA's Orion...

NASA's Orion spacecraft lifts off

NASAs Orion spacecraft lifts off

Washington: The Delta IV rocket carrying NASA's new Orion spacecraft for an unmanned test flight lifted off at 7:05 a.m. Friday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, NASA announced.

The capsule was vaulted into the space 24 hours after the original launch time, due to high winds and technical problems.

"The dawn of Orion in a new era of American space exploration!," NASA launch commentator Mike Curie exclaimed amid enthusiastic cheers from the thousands gathered at Cape Canaveral.

Orion is set to orbit the Earth twice, reaching an altitude of 5,793 km (3,599 miles) on a four-hour flight intended to test crucial spacecraft systems, including the heat shield that protects the capsule during re-entry.

The now-retired space shuttles traveled only a few hundred miles above the Earth.

Orion is NASA's first spacecraft since the Apollo programme that was designed to carry humans beyond the Earth orbit. The space agency predicts that the capsule can be used for a manned mission to Mars. Scientists, however, said it is likely to be possible two decades later.

The capsule will be traveling at more than 32,000 km per hour when it hits the atmosphere amid temperatures of around 2,200 Celsius (4,000 Fahrenheit).

Orion is set to splash down in the Pacific Ocean, where US Navy ships are waiting to retrieve the spacecraft and take it back to the Kennedy Space Center for examination.

NASA expects to launch Orion with humans aboard in 2021.

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