NASA Restarts Manned Space Program With First Test Flight of Orion
NASA is working hard to launch its [currently] unmanned Orion spacecraft this morning, though multiple issues have kept it grounded so far. It was initially supposed to blast off at 7:05 AM ET before being put on hold because a boat came too close, followed by another delay due to a gust of wind, and most recently because a fill and drain valve on the rocket did not function correctly. If NASA isn't able to launch Orion by 9:44 AM ET, it will have to wait until another day.
That scenario becomes increasingly likely with each passing moment, especially since mission managers made the decision to cycle the fill and drain valves on Orion's three core boosters to see if that solves the problem. Nevertheless, there's a lot of excitement at NASA.
"We haven't had this feeling in awhile, since the end of the shuttle program," Mike Sarafin, Orion flight director at Johnson Space Center, said in a preflight briefing on Wednesday, according to CNN.
Orion is NASA's newest spacecraft. It was built to carry humans and designed to allow for travel to destinations we've never been to before, including Mars and even setting foot on an asteroid. It will ultimately serve as a deep exploration vehicle, as well as provide emergency abort missions.
What NASA is attempting to accomplish today is a test flight to evaluate the spacecraft's launch and high-speed re-entry systems such as avionic, altitude control, parachutes, and the heat shield. In other words, making sure it's safe before filling it with a crew.
When it does become operational for crewed missions, it will be able to carry four people on a 21-day mission deep into space, or six people for shorter missions. Neither scenario is expected to happen until at least 2021.
You can watch a live feed of the launch here.