WASHINGTON — Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., delivered four phased-array antennas to be used later this year on a test flight of the Orion spacecraft that Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver is building for NASA. 

The Ball-built antennas are the primary means of voice, data and video communications for Orion’s crew, Ball said in a Feb. 24 press release. 

In its first test flight, slated for September, an uncrewed Orion will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket. The main objective of the flight is to test Orion’s heat shield, which protects both the spacecraft and its crew from the extreme temperatures during atmospheric re-entry.

In the test, Orion will orbit Earth twice before re-entering the atmosphere at about 80 percent of the velocity it would reach on a direct return from lunar orbit.

NASA has not officially signed off on a crewed mission for Orion. The spacecraft and its designated carrier rocket, the heavy-lift Space Launch System, are notionally slated to launch in 2017 and 2021 on missions to lunar space. Only the 2021 mission would be crewed.

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Dan Leone is the NASA reporter for SpaceNews, where he also covers other civilian-run U.S. government space programs and a growing number of entrepreneurial space companies. He joined SpaceNews in 2011.Dan earned a bachelor's degree in public communications...