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NASA Scraps Orion Shuttle Launch After Litany Of Setbacks

NASA Scraps Orion Shuttle Launch After Litany Of Setbacks
[Photo: Flickr user Michael Seeley]

After three attempts to launch NASA’s unmanned Orion spacecraft on Thursday, the mission was scrapped following a series of setbacks that failed to meet its 2-hour, 40-minute launch window.

Set to lift off from Kennedy Launch Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Orion is designed with the hope of one day ferrying humans to and from Mars. “This is not a Ferrari, like the space shuttle,” Skip Hatfield, NASA’s project manager for the capsule, told Fast Company in 2007. “It’s more like a minivan. It’s more of a vehicle to go to the grocery store in.”

Safety concerns, gusty winds, and a valve failure in one of Orion’s boosters put this morning’s launch on hold.

Orion’s first launch attempt was delayed, in part, when a stray boat entered the splashdown zone off the Mexican Baja coast, which was further beset by strong winds. A “sticky” valve issue in one of its rockets halted the second launch attempt with just over three minutes left to go on the countdown clock. The valve issue was unresolved by the third attempt, and the mission was postponed.

The crew had until 9:44 a.m. ET to launch Orion, but failed to meet what was considered to be a generous launch window. Although Orion doesn’t have any astronauts aboard it currently, the goal here was to test the “riskiest” parts of the spacecraft, including the heat shield and parachutes. The earliest Orion might carry passengers is 2021.

NASA says it will try again on Friday.CG