Orion 'Mars ship' launch postponed

Orion ‘Mars ship’ launch postponed

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The US space agency (Nasa) has aborted the launch of its Orion Mars capsule test mission, amid technical issues.The spacecraft had been due to launch on a short journey above the Earth to test key technologies – Nasa will try again in 24 hours.
The maiden flight had been due to take place from Cape Canaveral in Florida between 12:05GMT and 14:44 GMT.But the countdown was held several times, due to a boat getting too close, winds and technical issues.Finally, space agency officials were forced to scrub Thursday’s launch. “Despite the valiant attempts of the launch team and mission managers around the country, we basically ran out of time in trying to troubleshoot,” said Nasa spokesman Mike Curie.The conical vessel is reminiscent of the Apollo command ships that
took men to the Moon in the 1960s and 1970s, but bigger and with cutting-edge systems.The first delay on Thursday was because of a boat straying into the launch vicinity. Unacceptably strong gusts of wind subsequently forced the countdown to be halted.Then there were technical issues with valves not operating properly on the rocket’s big boosters.The decision to scrub Thursday’s attempt was driven by the combination of problems.Orion is being developed alongside a powerful new rocket that will have its own debut in 2017 or 2018.Together, they will form the core capabilities needed to send humans beyond the International Space Station to destinations such as the Red Planet.For the time being, the Delta IV-Heavy rocket – currently the beefiest launcher in the world – is being used as a stand-in. If all goes well on Friday, it will send Orion twice around the globe, throwing the ship up to an altitude of almost 6,000km (3,600 miles).This will set up a fast fall back to Earth, with a re-entry speed into the atmosphere close to 30,000km/h (20,000mph) – near what would be expected of a capsule coming back from the Moon.It should give engineers the opportunity to check the performance of Orion’s critical heat shield, which is likely to experience temperatures in excess of 2,000C (4,000F).They will also watch how the parachutes deploy as they gently lower the capsule into Pacific waters off Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. -BBC

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