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NASA Launch Scrubbed Until Friday; Weather, a Boat and Faulty Valves to Blame

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(Photo credit: NASA)

The much heralded launch of the Delta IV Rocket — carrying the Orion space capsule — was scrubbed on Thursday after a series of setbacks. Originally scheduled to launch at 7:05 a.m. EST, it was initially delayed after a boat entered a restricted zone, off the coast of Cape Canaveral.

Next, Mother Nature decided to have her turn at pushing the launch out even further. Winds around the launch site increased to a speed that made it unsafe to launch the rocket.

Once the winds died down, multiple valves — related to fuel mixing — malfunctioned about three minutes before the scheduled liftoff.

By that time, NASA had used all of its two-and-a-half-hour launch window, so the mission was scrapped for the day. NASA expects lift off at 7:05 a.m. EST on Friday. And at this point, the weather looks pretty good for the launch. The models are indicating partly cloudy conditions and winds between 10 and 15-mph. Some wind gusts could be higher and might delay the launch. WeatherNation will be up early, bringing you coverage — on-air and online — of the launch from Florida.

So, what exactly is Orion?

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(Photo credit: NASA)

Well, it’s a space capsule that many hope will eventually send humans into Deep Space. The goal is to send humans to Deep Space in the 2020s. It’s also being tapped for taking humans to Mars in the mid-2030s.

“The Orion Flight Test will evaluate launch and high speed re-entry systems such as avionics, attitude control, parachutes and the heat shield,” NASA said in a statement.

Once ignited, the Delta IV Heavy rocket — the strongest in America’s inventory of rockets — will use more than 2 million pounds of thrust to propel Orion into space.

After the launch, and reaching a prescribed orbit, the unmanned Orion capsule will orbit the Earth twice. During that time, it will preform a series of tests on the capsule. These tests will likely give NASA engineers valuable insight into the spacecraft’s design. More than 1,200 instruments will feed data back down the NASA.

Three hours after the launch, Orion will separate from the second stage of the Delta IV Heavy rocket. NASA explains what happens next, “The spacecraft will be aimed at Earth’s atmosphere and it will be up to Orion’s on-board computers to set the spacecraft in the right position so its base heat shield can bear the brunt of the intense reentry heat.”

he capsule will hit the atmosphere at more than 20,000-mph and will be subjected to temperatures nearing 4,000 degrees. For a bit of perspective, steel melts at just over 2,000 degrees and basalt lava peaks between 1,800 and 2,300 degrees.

Orion should splash down in the Pacific Ocean — just off Mexico’s Baja Peninsula — about four and a half hours after liftoff from Cape Canaveral. “Teams from NASA’s Ground Systems Development and Operations Program based at Kennedy will work with U.S. Navy and Lockheed Martin personnel to bring the spacecraft into the well deck of the USS Anchorage,” NASA says.

WeatherNation will have a reporter covering the launch from Kennedy Space Center and we’ll be bringing you special coverage on-air and online throughout the day on Thursday. If there are any changes in launch times we’ll bring you updates as they become available.

Meteorologist Alan Raymond

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