Commercial Space News
Orbital Sciences Corporation gave more details today about its plans to fulfill its Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA to send cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) in the wake of its October Antares rocket failure.
Antares exploded 15 seconds after liftoff on October 28, 2014, destroying its Cygnus cargo spacecraft filled with cargo destined for the ISS. It was Orbital's third operational cargo flight to the ISS. An investigation is ongoing, but Orbital Chairman, President and CEO David Thompson indicated last month that the AJ26 rocket engines are the likely culprit. Orbital was already in the process of deciding to switch to a different rocket engine, but still has not announced which one it has selected. The AJ26 is a Russian NK-33 engine built in the 1970s and imported to the United States and refurbished by Aerojet Rocketdyne.
Thompson said last month that his company would purchase launch services from another company to take Cygnus spacecraft to the ISS and still meet its contractual commitment to deliver 20 tons of cargo by the end of 2016. An upgraded version of Cygnus capable of handling more tonnage already was in development and Orbital will combine the cargo that was to be launched on five more missions into just four.
Today, Orbital announced that the United Launch Alliance's (ULA's) Atlas V rocket is its choice for at least one Cygnus mission in the fourth quarter of 2015, with an option for a second in 2016 if needed. Between the greater lift capability of the Atlas V compared to Antares, and the more commodious Cygnus, the mass to ISS will increase by 35 percent.
Meanwhile, the company is proceeding with its plans to replace the AJ26 engines with something new, though the announcement today still did not identify what it is. Three launches of the upgraded Antares are planned in 2016. The upgraded Antares with the new Cygnus will increase the mass to ISS by 20 percent over the original Antares and Cygnus.
Antares is launched from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, VA. The October 28 explosion damaged the pad and surrounding structures, though not as badly as many feared. Orbital said today that repairs will be completed and the pad recertified by the end of 2015.
Orbital, which is in the middle of a merger with ATK, said in its statement today that its revised approach to meeting the CRS contract commitments "is not expected to create any material adverse financial impacts in 2015 or future years..."
The CRS contract is for services provided to NASA using spacecraft and launch vehicles developed under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, colloquially known as "commercial cargo." COTS was a public-private partnership where both the government and the private sector invested in developing these new capabilities with a goal of reduced costs to the government compared to a traditional contracting mechanism. Skeptics are closely watching how Orbital and NASA cope with the Antares accident and whether the federal government must shoulder any of the costs.
NASA has released photos of its Orion capsule floating in the Pacific at the end of its Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission on Friday. The capsule was recovered by a NASA-U.S. Navy team and will be on display for the media today (Monday, December 8) at Naval Base San Diego.
Orion was successfully launched on Friday, December 5, from Cape Canaveral, FL on a Delta IV rocket, after a one-day delay. It splashed down in the Pacific about four-and-a-half hours later after two Earth orbits. The purpose of the launch was primarily to test Orion's heat shield. Although the spacecraft is being designed to carry people, no one was aboard this version, which is only a test model that is not equipped with life support systems, for example. The first launch of an Orion carrying a crew is not expected until at least 2021.
Orion was recovered aboard the USS Anchorage, which is seen in the background of this photo of Orion floating in the Pacific at the end of its two-orbit mission. Two of the orange Crew Module Uprighting System (CMUS) airbags are shown in the photo. In one of the few glitches in the test, one CMUS underinflated and another did not inflate. They are used to turn the capsule right side up if it lands upside down in the water and fortunately were not needed. More photos are posted on NASA's Orion website.
Orion test spacecraft in Pacific Ocean off Baja California at end of EFT-1 mission, December 5, 2014. Photo credit: NASA
The EFT-1 mission was conducted by Lockheed Martin, Orion's manufacturer, which contracted for the Delta IV launch from United Launch Alliance. NASA is buying the resulting data from Lockheed Martin. NASA estimates the cost of the EFT-1 mission at $370 million, which is only for the launch and non-reusable parts of the spacecraft. It plans to use the capsule for another test flight, so its cost is not included in the estimate.
NASA is engaged in a media blitz surrounding the mission under the theme "Journey to Mars." While Orion is being designed to someday send humans to Mars, such flights are in the long term future. President Obama's National Space Policy calls for humans to orbit, not land on, Mars in the 2030s and many are skeptical that is achievable with the budgets envisioned for NASA for the indefinite future. Landing on Mars is an even more expensive and technically challenging level of effort than simply orbiting, since a spacecraft is needed that can descend through the atmosphere, land safely, support humans for many months, ascend and return to Earth. The Mars Curiosity rover -- famous for its "7 minutes of terror" during landing -- weighs only one ton, a fraction of what a spacecraft carrying humans would weigh.
President Obama did not release a statement after the EFT-1 test, but his science adviser, John Holdren, praised the mission although the statement was as much about broad Administration space policy, including its priority of developing commercial crew systems to take astronauts back and forth to the International Space Station (ISS), as Orion.
Orion originally was part of President George W. Bush's Constellation program to send astronauts back to the Moon by 2020 and to Mars thereafter. President Obama proposed cancelling the Constellation program in 2010 (as part of the FY2011 budget process), igniting a firestorm of controversy. Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress opposed cancelling Constellation and were not enthusiastic about commercial crew. In the end, Congress and the President compromised in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act where Congress agreed to the commercial crew initiative (though it has not provided the amount of funding the President wants) and to cancelling Constellation, but in return for NASA building a new large rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), and a Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) to enable humans to travel beyond low Earth orbit. Orion was selected as the MPCV so is one of the few elements of the Constellation program to survive. The first destination for SLS/Orion remains controversial -- President Obama wants to send astronauts to an asteroid, but the concept has not generated much support.
Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee also praised the EFT-1 mission in separate statements. That committee's Space Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the status of Orion and SLS on Wednesday.
Here is our list of space policy-related events for the week of December 8-12, 2014 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session.
During the Week
This well could be the final week of the 113th Congress. If it can pass an appropriations bill to fund the government after December 11, when the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires, and the FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), this Congress will close up shop. The new 114th Congress, with Republicans in control of both the House and Senate, is expected to convene on January 6, 2015.
If all goes according to the plans of House and Senate leadership, this week Congress will pass a "cromnibus." That's a combination of a CR and an omnibus appropriations bill. The idea is that Congress will pass an omnibus appropriations bill combining 11 of the 12 regular appropriations bills (including Defense and Commerce-Justice-Science) to fund most government agencies through September 30, 2015. The exception is funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which includes immigration. As a protest against President Obama's immigration executive order, DHS would be funded only by a CR for a short period of time, probably through some time in January when Republicans control both the House and Senate and they have more power to engage the Obama White House. A cromnibus could be good news for DOD, NASA and NOAA, providing money for the rest of FY2015. NASA, in particular, could get a significant increase compared to President Obama's request if the end result follows what the House passed in May and the Senate Appropriations Committee approved in June.
Some Tea Party Republicans want their leaders to take a stronger stance against the President's immigration executive order, but at the moment it appears that House and Senate Republican leaders are more concerned about avoiding a government shutdown than scoring political points on immigration. They seem content to wait three weeks until they control the Senate as well as the House to fight that battle.
Also, the Senate is expected to pass the compromise version of the FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed the House last week. It has a number of national security space provisions, including prohibiting the purchase of Russian RD-180 rocket engines after the current contract expires unless certain conditions are met.
Also coming up this week is the 9th Eilene M. Galloway Symposium on Critical Issues in Space Law on Wednesday. This year's theme is "Non-Traditional Commercial Space Activities: Legal and Poiicy Challenges, Opportunities and Ways Forward."
That's the same day the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on the status of NASA's Orion and Space Launch System programs.
Those and other events we know about as of Sunday evening are listed below.
Monday, December 8
Tuesday, December 9
Wednesday, December 10
Wednesday-Thursday, December 10-11
Thursday, December 11
Thursday-Friday, December 11-12
In contrast to all the issues that cropped up yesterday, today's launch of the Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission went off without a hitch.
The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket lifted off on time at 7:05 am Eastern Standard Time (EST) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Orion is now in its preliminary orbit. Its second stage will fire again in a little over an hour to raise the apogee (highest point) to 3,600 miles. Orion will then descend through the atmosphere and splashdown in the Pacific four hours and 23 minutes after the launch.
EFT-1 is primarily a test of Orion's heatshield. The spacecraft will be recovered and returned to its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, to determine how well the heat shield materials withstood the heat of reentry. NASA is buying the data from Lockheed Martin.
The House passed the compromise National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2015 today by a vote of 300-119. The Senate is expected to the pass the bill next week. It includes restrictions on the future use of Russia’s RD-180 rocket engine for the Atlas V rocket and authorizes $220 million to begin development of a U.S. alternative.
The House passed its version of the bill on May 22 and the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) approved a version on June 2. The bill never made it to the floor of the Senate for a vote, however. Instead, House and Senate members negotiated the final version (H.R. 3979) behind closed doors over the past several months.
The bill authorizes $585 billion for the Department of Defense (DOD) -- $521 billion in base spending plus $64 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (e.g. for the war in Afghanistan).
The bill has an entire subtitle devoted to a broad range of concerns about national security space programs (Subtitle A of Title XVI), including several provisions about space launch. Among them is a restriction on the use of Russian RD-180 engines for the United Launch Alliance’s (ULA’s) Atlas V rocket. ULA’s Atlas V and Delta IV are Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELVs).
Section 1608 prohibits the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) from awarding or renewing a contract under the EELV program if it carries out space launch activities using rocket engines designed or manufactured in Russia. The language does provide waiver authority if needed for national security or if launch services could not be obtained at a fair and reasonable price otherwise.
The language also exempts engines that were ordered under the block buy contract that the Air Force signed with ULA in December 2013 or under any contract signed before February 1, 2014 where the engines were fully paid for by the contractor or covered by a legally binding commitment that the contractor pay for them.
U.S. reliance on Russian rocket engines to launch many U.S. national security satellites became a significant issue this spring after Russia annexed Crimea, beginning a downward spiral in U.S.-Russian geopolitical relationships. ULA and the Air Force insist that it is "business as usual" with the Russian company that builds the engines, but they have also acknowledged that it is time for the U.S. to build its own new liquid rocket engine. ULA President Tory Bruno recently framed it as a business decision, not a geopolitical one, however.
The bill also requires the SecDef to develop a new U.S. liquid rocket engine (actually a propulsion system) by 2019. The bill authorizes $220 million in FY2015, while noting that it “is not an authorization of funds for development of a new launch vehicle.” (It is important to note that authorization bills only recommend funding levels, they do not actually provide any money. Only appropriations bills give agencies money to spend. Congress has not completed action on any of the FY2015 appropriations bills yet.)
In response to a query about its reaction to the language in the bill, ULA said by email that “any effort to cut-off the RD-180 before a new reliable engine is available would result in billions of increased costs to the U.S. taxpayer and will leave the nation with a huge gap in national security capabilities.” ULA announced a partnership with Blue Origin in September to build a U.S. alternative to the RD-180.
The bill also –
To mention just a few of the other issues addressed in the bill, it restricts spending to 50 percent of the authorized amount for several programs -- Weather Satellite Follow-on System, Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Space Data Exploitation, hosted payload and SBIRS wide field of view testbed, and protected tactical demonstration and protected military satellite communications testbed – until certain certifications or reports are provided to Congress.
It also prohibits use of funds authorized in the bill to store one of DOD’s existing weather satellites (Defense Meteorological Satellite Program –DMSP) until DOD certifies that it plans to launch the satellite and storing it is the most cost effective approach to meeting DOD requirements. That issue pertains to the last DMSP satellite, DMSP-20, which the Air Force appears ambivalent about launching, but the storage costs are high. It has been in storage for many years already. The DMSPs were supposed to be replaced by National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS). DOD has been trying to decide the future of its weather satellite program since NPOESS was cancelled in 2010. It launched DMSP-19 earlier this year, but its plans for DMSP-20 are unsettled.
The bill also requires –
The text of the bill and the joint explanatory statement are posted on the websites of the House Armed Services Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Editor's Note: H.R. 3979 initially was a bill regarding volunteer firefighters and emergency responders that passed the House and Senate earlier this year. It then became a bill on emergency unemployment compensation. The text of the compromise version of the NDAA was inserted into that bill (replacing what was there), a procedure referred to as using it as a "legislative vehicle" for passing something else. The goal is to speed legislative action by amending a bill that has already passed both chambers. It is not uncommon.
The House Science, Space and Technology (SS&T) Committee's Space Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing next week on the status of NASA's Orion and Space Launch System (SLS) programs.
The hearing will be on December 10, 2014 at 10:00 am in 2318 Rayburn House Office Building. Witnesses are:
The full title of the hearing is "An Update on the Space Launch System and Orion: Monitoring the Development of the Nation's Deep Space Exploration Capabilities."
SLS and Orion are congressional favorites and there has been significant tension between Congress and the White House -- and therefore NASA -- on whether the Obama Administration is giving them the priority Congress intended when it passed the 2010 NASA Authorization Act. The Obama Administration wants to focus on the commercial crew program to facilitate the development of new crew space transportation capabilities by the private sector to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
With all the intense NASA publicity associated with the Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) launch, it is difficult to imagine that NASA is anything but supportive of Orion, but ultimately the question is about how NASA's money is allocated. In a constrained budget environment, does the money go to SLS/Orion or commercial crew? Congress thinks the Obama Administration is favoring commercial crew even though the Administration knows SLS/Orion is their priority.
The versions of the FY2015 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill that passed the House in May and was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee in June leave no doubt that SLS/Orion has priority over commercial crew in Congress. Whether the Obama Administration's human spaceflight priorities will be the focus of this hearing or if it is just an update on where SLS and Orion stand is not clear from the committee's announcement. Having the NASA CFO at a programmatic hearing is a little unusual, however, and the announcement indicates that he has not yet agreed to participate (or that NASA or the White House has not yet agreed to allow him to participate).
Launch of the EFT-1 mission, scheduled for today, was scrubbed due to weather and technical issues and has been rescheduled for tomorrow. Even if there is another delay, presumably it will be completed prior to the hearing.
The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission today agreed to the merger of ATK and Orbital Sciences Corporation. The companies expect to complete the transaction in February 2015.
ATK and Orbital announced a "merger of equals" in April 2014. At the time, they expected the deal to close this month, but a variety of factors -- including the launch failure of Orbital's Antares rocket in October -- delayed it slightly. Last month ATK signaled that it wanted to proceed, but the shareholder vote has been postponed until January 27, 2015.
In a joint press release, the two companies said they were informed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that the FTC and the Justice Department have terminated the waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino antitrust act effective today.
They expect the merger to close immediately after ATK spins off its sporting goods business, which will become a new, separate company, Vista Outdoor Inc. That is expected in February "subject to the satisfaction of remaining closing conditions" including shareholder approval.
This article is updated throughout following a post-scrub press conference at Kennedy Space Center.
NASA's attempt to launch the Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission this morning (December 4) was scrubbed due to weather and technical issues. NASA, Lockheed Martin and the United Launch Alliance (ULA) plan to try again tomorrow, although they are still looking at weather and technical issues. If the launch proceeds tomorrow, the launch window is the same (7:05 - 9:44 am EST). The weather forecast has deteriorated and now is only 40 percent favorable.
Today's 2 hour 37 minute launch window opened at 7:05 am EST. Launch was initially delayed for a few minutes because a boat entered restricted waters off Cape Canaveral. Then two launch attempts were scrubbed because automated sensors detected wind gusts exceeding the 21 knot limit for northerly winds and halted the countdown. Then technical issues arose with the fill and drain valves for the Delta IV Heavy's three core boosters (the three orange cylindrical tanks in the photo below).
United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle for NASA's Orion EFT-1 mission. Photo credit: ULA
Each of the three core boosters is fueled by liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOX). There are LH2 and LOX fill and drain valves for each booster - a total of six. Although initial reports indicated that two of the LOX valves did not close and later that it was LH2 valves causing the problems, ULA's Dan Collins said at the post-scrub press conference that all the LOX valves operated perfectly; only the LH2 valves were problematical. Troubleshooting efforts did not solve the problem before the launch window closed, and ULA continues to assess the issue.
Collins, who is ULA's Chief Operating Officer, said he is confident the valves will be ready for tomorrow, however. He said ULA encountered this in a previous Delta IV Heavy launch and believes it is related to the valves getting too cold during long countdowns. LH2 is -423 degrees F (-253 degrees C).
The launch is being conducted by Lockheed Martin and ULA, not NASA (which is buying the resulting data from Lockheed Martin). While ULA was assessing weather and valves, Lockheed Martin was looking at how many times it could cycle the Orion spacecraft on and off and still conserve enough battery power for the rest of the mission. Orion uses external power until a certain point in the countdown (T-9 minutes) when it switches to internal power and begins drawing on its battery resources. That happened this morning each time the countdown passed that mark. Lockheed Martin Orion program manager Mike Hawes added that there are additional issues regarding how much data can be stored, so there are a finite number of times the countdown can be stopped and started from the Orion perspective.
As of the time of the post-scrub press conference at noon EST, the plan is to try again tomorrow, December 5. However, Collins explained that the Delta IV can launch two of any three days in a row because of fueling constraints. If they try again tomorrow and there is another scrub, they would not be able to try on Saturday. Sunday would be the earliest date to reschedule. Right now they only have permission to use the Eastern Test Range (of which Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is part) today, tomorrow and Saturday. They will continue to assess the technical issues with the Delta IV, the Orion recycle issues, and the weather outlook before they fuel the vehicle in case they decide to wait until Saturday.
The weather forecast for tomorrow has deteriorated to only 40 percent favorable (it had been 60 percent). On Saturday it is 70 percent favorable. The concern about wind speed and direction is because the wind can push the Delta IV -- as massive as it is -- once it lifts off and it could hit into surrounding structures near the launch pad.
When it does launch, the EFT-1 mission will last just 4.5 hours as Orion makes two orbits of the Earth and then reenters through the atmosphere at high speed to test its heat shield, splashing down in the Pacific off the coast of Baja California.
The Council of Ministers of the European Space Agency (ESA) approved development of a new Ariane 6 rocket yesterday. As ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain stressed, Ariane 6 is not just a new rocket, but a new governance model where industry accepts more of the risk. The ministers will have an opportunity at their next meeting in 2016 to relook at the program and decide if any changes are needed.
ESA is an international organization with 20 member countries (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom) and one cooperating country (Canada).
The Council of Ministers, comprised of the top officials responsible for their country’s participation in ESA, meets every two or three years to determine what programs to pursue and how much money each member will contribute. ESA has “mandatory” programs to which all members must contribute (e.g. space science), while other programs are “optional” and countries participate only if they wish to (e.g. space transportation and the International Space Station).
Under its optional programs, ESA pays for the development of launch vehicles, while the French-based company Arianespace provides launch services using them. Arianespace’s current launch fleet consists of Ariane 5 for large payloads, the Russian-built Soyuz for medium payloads, and the European Vega for small payloads.
Ariane 5 is very reliable, but Europe has been debating for years what changes are needed to ensure Ariane and other European rockets can meet future market demands, especially lower prices spurred by competition from SpaceX.
Germany preferred an evolution of Ariane 5 (Ariane 5 ME) while France advocated a new Ariane 6 “family” of launchers with two versions: one for large payloads and one for medium payloads. Just prior to the ministerial meeting, Germany agreed to support the Ariane 6 proposal. Meanwhile, the ministers also agreed to develop an upgraded version of Vega. Ariane 6 and the new Vega-C will share the same first stage and thus all of Europe’s launch vehicles will “have the same DNA,” Dordain explained at a press conference after the meeting. That should reduce costs through simplified manufacturing and launch operations.
A key aspect of the Ariane 6 decision is that industry will take on some of the financial risk instead of it resting with the governments. Earlier this year, the two primary companies that manufacture Ariane, Airbus and Safran, announced they would form a joint venture, Airbus Safran Launchers, to participate in Ariane 6.
The resolution adopted by the ESA Ministers states that ‘the Joint Venture will bear all commercial market risks during exploitation without support from Member States” while ESA provides a guaranteed “institutional” market of five launches per year. Those launches would be for ESA itself, its member governments, the European Union (EU), and Europe’s meteorological agency, EUMETSAT. The joint venture will be responsible for finding any additional customers. It will also have the design authority for Ariane 6, rather than ESA.
In a press release today, Airbus and Safran said they welcomed ESA’s approval of Ariane 6, but added that their decision to create the Joint Venture (JV) “naturally assumes an in-principle agreement for the transfer to the JV of shares in Arianespace held by” the French space agency, CNES. A decision on that issue has not yet been made. CNES owns 34.68 percent of Arianespace. The remainder is owned in varying amounts by 20 European entities, including Safran and Airbus (Astrium is part of Airbus).
Dordain said he foresees no difficulty in delivering five institutional launches per year. The EU, for example, is launching a navigation satellite system, Galileo, similar to the U.S GPS system, that requires 24 operational satellites (plus in-orbit spares), which should guarantee a continuing demand for launch services.
Dordain said that at yesterday's meeting ministers committed €4 billion for the development of Ariane 6 and Vega-C, which is enough to pay for their development through first launch (Vega-C in 2018, Ariane 6 in 2020). He added, however, that they will have an opportunity to relook at the program at the next ministerial council in 2016: “Participating states … will decide to continue Ariane 6 on the same track or to change it once again, but we have commitments to take Ariane 6 to its maiden flight. …. We will be able to sign contracts until the end of the development phase.”
At today's exchange rate, 1 Euro is $1.23, so the €4 billion commitment for Ariane 6 and Vega-C is approximately $5 billion.
The Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) launch was given the green light today for launch at 7:05 am Eastern Standard Time (EST) on Thursday, December 4, 2014. The weather forecast is 60 percent favorable for launch that day. December 5 and 6 are backup launch days.
The approximately 4.5 hour flight's main purpose is to test the spacecraft's heat shield. This Orion test spacecraft -- which has no one aboard -- is the first vehicle ultimately intended to carry humans further from Earth than the International Space Station (ISS) since the Apollo program, which ended in the 1970s. EFT-1's highest point (apogee) of 3,600 miles is 15 times higher than the ISS orbit.
The first flight of an Orion carrying a crew is not expected until at least 2021. In 2017 or 2018, another unoccupied vehicle will be flown on the first test of the Space Launch System (SLS), a new "heavy lift" rocket under development by NASA. SLS and Orion are designed to take astronauts beyond low Earth orbit (LEO) -- to orbit the Moon and someday to orbit Mars. NASA has been holding a number of media events highlighting that Orion is part of a "journey to Mars," even though that destination is decades in the future.
Orion is built by Lockheed Martin and NASA stresses that this is a commercial launch -- not a NASA launch. NASA is buying data from Lockheed Martin about the spacecraft's performance. Lockheed Martin procured the launch on a Delta IV rocket from the United Launch Alliance (ULA). Lockheed Martin and Boeing co-own ULA.
Launch is from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the launch window is 2 hours and 40 minutes long. After two orbits of the Earth, the EFT-1 mission will splash down in the Pacific, where the spacecraft will be recovered and returned to NASA for use in a later test flight.