NASA is set to make a second try at launching the first test flight of its new crewed Orion spacecraft Friday morning at 7:05 a.m. EST after bad weather and technical difficulties scrubbed the first launch window Thursday.
The space agency will begin broadcasting live coverage of the launch event around 6 a.m. Friday morning via NASA TV:
Originally scheduled for liftoff at just after 7 a.m. EST Thursday, a boat entering the quarantined launch area and strong, continually gusting winds outside of acceptable speeds forced an abort of the countdown clock multiple times throughout the morning.
After waiting out the weather issues, another series of launch attempts were aborted when mission controllers reported fill and drain liquid oxygen fuel valves on the Orion’s Delta IV Heavy rocket launch vehicle’s 3 core boosters failed to close properly.
Mission controllers attempted several cyclings of the valves toward the end of the launch window until personnel from United Launch Alliance (ULA) — which manufacturers the Delta IV Heavy lift vehicle for NASA — recommended calling off the launch over concerns of diminished battery power in the video cameras attached to the vehicle.
During a post-scrub press conference noon Thursday, NASA, Lockheed and ULA representatives said the direction of the wind expected Friday was more favorable for launch, and that the team had one more shot at launching the fully assembled Orion vehicle before the Delta IV Heavy would have to be refueled.
The Delta IV Heavy will send the spacecraft on a 4.5-hour test flight 3,600 miles above Earth, or almost 14 times higher than the orbit of the Internal Space Station.
During the flight, Orion will orbit the planet twice before re-entering the atmosphere at 20,000 m.p.h. — 80 percent of the speed the spacecraft would be traveling at were it returning from the moon — and reach temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. (RELATED: NASA Previews First December Test Flight Of New Orion Spacecraft, Which Will Carry Astronauts To Mars)
According to NASA, Thursday’s Exploration Flight Test-1 will take Orion “farther than any crewed spacecraft has gone in more than 40 years” (the last such platform was Apollo) to test the spacecraft’s critical systems against the Van Allen radiation belt and other factors Orion’s team expects the ship to encounter during missions into deep space.
If all goes as planned, Orion will then deploy two stages of parachutes for a splashdown in the Pacific shortly before noon, returning to Earth with troves of flight data for NASA engineers to analyze in preparation to send astronauts deeper into space than they’ve ever gone.