Another postponed mission of NASA
Without a crew, bolted on a Delta IV Heavy, the capsule Orion Deep Space is still on the launching pad at Cape Canaveral. It is yet another postponement for NASA that in all ways is trying to return to perform manned space missions. Goal: to bring the man to the moon, to reach asteroids and Mars.
The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy, which is engaged the Orion capsule, on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral.
Orion does not take off. It is 9:45 to Cape Canaveral and the launch window closes with a stalemate. The boosters of the Delta IV Heavy is not illuminated the sky of Florida. And after a wait of more than 40 years, NASA is still there, hoping a return in Space, with a capsule equipped to accompany the man to Mars and asteroids. All postponed to next day morning when, hopefully, Orion Deep Space will be the first American passenger capsule (very different in concept from the Shuttle) to leave Earth since Apollo 17, 1972.
Failure to launch is yet another stop to the human program of space exploration and, as is inevitable, eliminate the dream to bring the man to the moon, asteroids reach for a walk around our star system (2025) or the dream of landing on the red Planet (2030).
We look forward also in terms of new launchers: the Space Launch System, which promises to become the most powerful rocket ever built by man, was to be launched in a configuration for almost 80 tons precisely with the Orion capsule. But nothing. Hopefully, once fully operational, it will be able to handle even higher loads, up to more than 140 tons. We will see. The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy on which Orion will fly tomorrow, if all goes well, it is, and the avoidance of doubt the most powerful rocket on the market.
In the four and a half hours provided for the flight test, the carrier will escort the Orion capsule into Earth orbit and then throw it, with the second stage of the rocket, at an altitude of 5800 km, about 15 times higher, and the one where the current orbit International Space Station.
And then back to high, very high speed, through the atmosphere to 30 thousand kilometers per hour and the boiling temperature of 2000 degrees Celsius, shock test to the heat shield. Dip in the Pacific with the US Navy parachute and ready to retrieve the capsule in the sea.
Nothing crew on board for this first test, it was said, but Orion never suffers from loneliness, beached on the launching pad. In the crew compartment, as usual, many familiar objects inserted by engineers working on the project: from the action figures of Captain Kirk of Star Trek in a gadget of Iron Man, through a small and scary Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for Orion seemed to have done a good job and the assembly was completed in compliance with all the criteria required by the protocol. Theater of operations: the Neil Armstrong and Operations Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center. Only a week ago Orion had passed the Flight Readiness Review (FRR) and received by the top managers of the Agency US space the green light to proceed with the test flight.
The pathfinding capsule version had suffered the final touches in September. Engineers and technicians had completed the installation of the panels forming the rear shell of Orion to best protect the spacecraft – and future astronauts – from scorching temperatures of re-entry and verify the vulnerability of the capsule to the clash with orbiting debris and micrometeoroids.