Orion spacecraft on schedule for 2014 test flight

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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. —

Channel 9 was given an up-close look at NASA's Orion spacecraft, which will make its first trip to space in December.

The next-generation spacecraft will have its first unmanned test flight by the end of 2014. Brevard County reporter Melonie Holt got a first look at the powerful rocket boosters that will carry Orion into space.

"We're excited about this mission. We talk about the stepping stones to getting to Mars and for us this EFT mission is so important to us," NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot said.

The boosters are being held in the Horizontal Integration Facility.

"There's a lot of thrust needed to support this very important mission," Tony Taliancich, with United Launch Alliance, said.

An exploration test flight was pushed back to December to accommodate a pair of Air Force launches earlier in the year. But Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana said Orion will be ready by its original September launch window.

"It's going to be complete on time. These guys are working seven days a week. That vehicle is going to roll out of there a complete spacecraft," Cabana said.

During the test flight, Orion will travel 3,600 miles into space and orbit the Earth twice. The capsule will re-enter Earth's atmosphere at speeds approaching 20,000 miles per hour, generating temperatures as high as 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, before splashing into the Pacific Ocean.

"Crews are going to fly in this capsule in 2017. It's just an exciting time for us at the agency," Cabana said.