NASA's return to manned spaceflight was delayed today as the scheduled launch of the Orion EFT-1 mission was cancelled due to a series of mishaps. Originally scheduled to lift off at 7:05 am EST from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy booster, setbacks due to the weather and equipment problems forced mission control to put off the flight beyond the launch window, which ended at 9:44.
According to NASA, the beginning of the EFT-1 mission was scrubbed due to minor problems in conditioning the upper stage and reports of a boat wandering into the range over which the rocket would fly, then a sudden rise in local winds that exceeded safety parameters, followed by a pair of fill and drain valves malfunctioning. Though the space agency is confident about resolving the technical problems, there was too little time remaining today to allow the four and a half hour flight to be carried out and still leave enough daylight for recovery operations at the splashdown zone.
When finally launched, the Orion capsule, which is not carrying a crew, will carry out a two-orbit flight around the Earth, which will take it to an altitude of 3,600 mi (5,800 km) before returning for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off Baja California, where the USS Anchorage and USNS Salvor are standing by to pick it up.
The purpose of EFT-1 is to test the flight systems, computers, and other technology in anticipation of the first astronaut-carrying flight set for some time in 2018.
Weather permitting, a second attempt could be made tomorrow or Saturday.
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