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Orion Test Flight Scrubbed, NASA Aims for Friday Launch

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NASA Orion

Orion waits on the pad for a 'go' for launch. Photo: NASA

The first unmanned test mission of NASA’s new deep space capsule Orion was scrubbed today because of problems with a fuel valve in the Delta Four Heavy rocket. The valve grew cold and sluggish after technical problems, weather concerns and a misunderstanding involving a boat delayed this morning’s launch for hours.

Anticipation intensified as the countdown clock was stopped and restarted throughout the morning.

The mission was scrubbed minutes before the two-and-a-half-hour launch window closed.

Dan Collins of United Launch Alliance says every scrubbing costs money. “But that’s part of doing this business, and the cost of that pales in comparison to trying to fly when the rocket is telling you I’m not quite ready,” says Collins.

Astronaut Cady Coleman, who flew multiple shuttle missions, was watching from the Kennedy Space Center. She says it’s disappointing  but also just part of the business. “Leaving the planet is a big deal. Launching a rocket the size of this rocket, launching any rocket, is a very big deal, and you don’t do it unless everything is right,” says Coleman.

Thousands of spectators gathered around the launch site to watch.

Todd Freece was among a crowd of about 200 people at Space View Park in Titusville, 15 miles from the launch pad.

“I wanted to see a little bit of history. Also, the Delta IV Heavy is a big, loud rocket, so I wanted to be able to watch that,” says Freece.

Despite the scrubbed launch, onlooker Doug Lienhard remained optimistic about Orion. “We’ll look forward to future launches. They’ll work out the problems, get it going.”

Orion is NASA’s first new spacecraft designed for astronauts since the shuttle. NASA bills this unmanned mission as humankind’s first step toward Mars.

NASA will try again Friday morning. The launch window opens at 7:05 am EST.

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