Orion is scheduled to be launched aboard a Delta IV heavy rocket and will complete a 4.5-hour, two-orbit test flight.

The capsule designed and built by the Jefferson County-based Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. (LMSS), is the first vehicle made to take astronauts to deep space destinations, such as the asteroids or Mars.

The spacecraft will travel around 3,600 miles into space and return to Earth at a speed of more than 20,000 mph.

In future Orion will be used as part of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS).

"An empty shell of a spacecraft arrived in Kennedy Space Center two years ago, and now we have a fully assembled Orion standing 72 feet tall. We are ready to launch it into space and test every inch," said Michael Hawes, Orion programme manager.

The height includes a launch-abort tower that sticks up from the capsule and contains rocket engines meant to pull the capsule away from its launch vehicle to safety in the event of a mishap.

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