A valve malfunction on the Delta IV rocket that was scheduled to lift off carrying NASA’s new Orion spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, Florida, for an unmanned test flight forced the postponement of the launch.
Mission engineers at the Kennedy Space Center detected that a valve was not closing properly and decided they could not repair it in time for the launch to proceed with originally scheduled Thursday launch.
Liftoff, originally set for 7.05 a.m. on Thursday, had been delayed three times so far — once when a boat strayed into the off-limits zone and two other times due to high winds. Now, NASA has rescheduled the launch for Friday.
Orion is NASA’s first spacecraft since the Apollo programme that is designed to carry humans beyond Earth orbit into deep space exploration.
The spacecraft Orion, built by Lockheed Martin, has been designed in a conical vessel model similar to the Apollo craft that supposedly carried two astronauts to the Moon in 1969. Though the spacecraft is designed for future manned missions, no astronauts will be on board the first experimental mission.
Although Orion is a NASA project, it was developed on contract basis by Lockheed Martin, under supervision and guidance of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The re-scheduled Friday’s flight is meant to witness Orion taking two rounds around the globe at an altitude of 6,000km and whether it withstands heat while re-entering into the atmosphere at a speed of 30,000km/h. In the next stage, parachutes will slow down its speed to lower the capsule gently into Pacific waters off Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula.
“The state-of-the-art spacecraft design provides solutions extensible to future missions, and focuses first and foremost on crew safety as it accommodates a crew of up to six astronauts, provides safe ascent abort with no black zones, enables safe abort opportunities during all mission phases and withstands re-entry at speeds greater than 20,000 miles per hour,” said Lockheed Martin on its website.
Apart from Orion, Lockheed will also help prepare for Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), slated for 2017, during which Orion will be launched aboard NASA’s Space Launch System for the first time.
Based in Houston, Texas, near NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the Orion team includes major subcontractors Aerojet Rocketdyne, United Technologies Aerospace Systems, and Honeywell, as well as a huge network of minor subcontractors and small businesses in 45 states across the US.