NASA Mars Mission On Hold After Orion Launch Put Off

By @snksounak on
The Mobile Service Tower rolls back from the Delta IV Heavy with the Orion spacecraft on launch pad 37B
The Mobile Service Tower rolls back from the Delta IV Heavy with the Orion spacecraft on launch pad 37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, December 4, 2014. REUTERS/Steve Nesius

NASA put off Orion launch after multiple weather and technical problems had delayed its first attempt to launch the exploration capsule on Thursday. A further attempt will be made on Friday, Dec. 5.

NASA is going to try to launch a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Friday that will carry an unmanned Orion capsule. The targeted time for the next attempt at 7:05 a.m. However, there is only a 40 percent chance that there will be a successful launch as the weather forecast for Friday is even worse. The first attempt on Thursday was also planned at 7:05 a.m. but a strayed boat into the launch zone had delayed the launch. Strong winds halted countdowns twice within minutes of the planned launch at 7:17 a.m. and at 7:55 a.m. Liquid oxygen valves were not closed properly in a couple of Delta IV rocket boosters. It halted the attempt at 8:26 a.m. The next time for attempt was scheduled at 9:44 a.m. but it failed once again as the valve problem could not be solved.

Lockheed Martin Corp. handles this $375-million mission which intends to have an early test for parachutes, heat shield and computers of Orion's crew module intended to fly for two orbits. NASA intends to use Orion, an Apollo-like capsule, to fly astronauts to an asteroid. However, USA Today reported that crews would not climb on board until 2021. Orion is expected to take astronauts to Mars by the 2030s. The Orion capsule will go 3,600 miles up with a 20,000-mph entry through the atmosphere. It will be set for a splashdown in the Pacific after four hours and a half after the lift-off.

CBC News reported that it was NASA's deliberate decision to keep astronauts off the first Orion. The authorities wanted to make sure that the riskiest issues were OK before they could commit to a crew. The Orion may carry passengers as early as 2021. Lockheed Martin opted for the Delta IV rocket. Future missions will use NASA's Space Launch System megarocket which is still in development. The first Orion-SLS is expected to launch in 2018.

Contact the writer: s.mukhopadhyay@ibtimes.com.au

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