NASA has rescheduled the launch of its Orion test flight to 7:05 a.m. EST on Friday, a delay of 24 hours. The space agency had to scrub Thursday’s launch following a series of delays. Built by Lockheed Martin, Orion is designed to eventually take humans to asteroids and Mars. However, this test flight was an unmanned mission.
Why did NASA scrub the launch?
Before the test mission was postponed, more about 25,000 people had gathered to watch the liftoff. It was the first time since Apollo 17 returned from the moon in 1972 that a spacecraft was scheduled to fly beyond the Earth orbit. Why was the launch postponed? There were several reasons, some non-technical and some technical.
Just minutes before the scheduled time of 7:05 a.m. on Thursday, an unauthorized boat entered the restricted area. It delayed the blast off by 12 minutes. When the countdown resumed, ground winds gusted higher than necessary for safe launching, reports CNN. NASA had to abort the third launch attempt when sensors detected that the liquid-oxygen fill-and-drain valves on the Delta 4 Heavy rocket failed to open. The Delta 4 Heavy rocket was scheduled to carry Orion capsule into the space.
NASA spent about 2½ hours trying to work out these obstacles. But the space agency finally scrubbed the test flight at 9:40 a.m. EST. On Friday, the Delta 4 Heavy rocket will take the Orion capsule 3,600 miles above the Earth. In its 4½ hours journey, the capsule will orbit the Earth twice before entering the atmosphere at 20,000 miles per hour.
NASA to test heat shield, parachutes and other systems
Eventually, it will splash down in the Pacific Ocean, where Navy ships USS Anchorage and USNS Salvor will recover it. The capsule has more than 1200 sensors to record data. NASA will test whether Orion’s heat shield can withstand the 2,200 degrees Celsius temperature it would experience while re-entering the atmosphere. The capsule’s parachutes and other systems will also be tested.
NASA plans to launch Orion’s the second test flight in about four years. However, the astronauts will fly only in the third test flight, which is scheduled for 2021. NASA plans to send crew members to an asteroid by 2025, and to Mars in 2030s.