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Technical Hitches Delay Orion Capsule's First Launch 71

According to NBC news, "A series of delays held up the maiden launch of NASA's Orion capsule on Thursday, adding some extra suspense to the first test of a spacecraft that's designed to take humans farther than they've ever gone — including to Mars." The much-anticipated launch, which had been scheduled for launch 7:05 a.m. Florida time, is to boost into orbit — empty — an instance of the Orion crew capsule intended to be part of a manned mission to Mars. As of shortly after 9 a.m. eastern time, troubleshooting has been in progress on the Alliance Delta 4 launch vehicle's hydrogen fill and drain valves in attempt to make the launch within today's launch window, which extends to 9:44 a.m. Besides the technical problem with those valves, the launch was delayed by wind, as well as by a boat that strayed into a restricted area. (Shades of the stray-boat delay in October for Orbital Science's ISS delivery launch.) Friday and Saturday have been designated as backup dates. Update: 12/04 15:03 GMT by T : The launch has been scrubbed.
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Technical Hitches Delay Orion Capsule's First Launch

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  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Thursday December 04, 2014 @09:34AM (#48522295)
    Do they detain the crew and any passengers on stray boats that are caught within the restricted area?

    There was a plot point in a TV movie called Earth II where someone attempted to sabotage a space launch with a rifle at the beginning. I assume that if an important tank or engine component is punctured by rifle fire at the right time it would destroy the vehicle.
    • by Toad-san ( 64810 )

      Detain? Phthth. Ignore works for me.

    • IIRC, the Coast Guard sends out a helicopter to warn them out of the area with loudspeakers. Failure to comply results in a visit from a Coast Guard boat, and that's where things can get expensive.

      • They should warn them with SAMs. Through center mass.

        • They should warn them with SAMs.

          Yeah, using Surface to AIR Missiles on boats actually works really well. Because, y'know, the difference between a boat and a plane is pretty much nonexistant....

  • by A10Mechanic ( 1056868 ) on Thursday December 04, 2014 @09:34AM (#48522301)
    Have they tried turning it off and on again? Oh, wait. They're actually doing that...
  • by A10Mechanic ( 1056868 ) on Thursday December 04, 2014 @09:36AM (#48522313)
    Never mind. see you tomorrow
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 04, 2014 @09:48AM (#48522389)

    Stray boat and crazy people in them
    Auto-off wind triggers
    Manual override to those wind triggers
    Fuel valve funny business - power cycling, over pressurizing, and what not.

    All in the course of a couple of hours. Yep. Space is hard, folks!

    • by NMBob ( 772954 )
      The only problem I have is that they saw this same valve problem on a previous (the last one?) launch of the DIVH. And I can't imagine they didn't see it during testing too. I guess they didn't think it was important enough to stop a launch, and fix it before it did. Watching the wind to 'manual'. Too funny. It's sad that they thought they needed a computer to watch the wind in the first place. What's the saying? Hoisted by my own petard?
      • Would there have been a valve or wind abort if that stray boat hadn't showed up? If not, then the valve issues might have become a complication later on in the mission? Sounds kinda edgy to me... I guess this is what test flights are for.
        • Why would you NOT scrub a any space flight for a potential problem? You've got billions on the line. You can launch again in a day or so.

          You in a hurry to go somewhere?

          • Fully agree. In the many years and billions spent to reach this day, a 24 hr delay (or even a 48hr or more) is a fraction of a peanut. But the fact that they were willing to manually override the auto wind triggers suggests that they either felt pressured with the closing of the launch window, or didn't trust enough in the reliability of those automated systems. If it's the former, then it's a scary prospect. The purpose of this mission I guess is to test the capsule and the upper launch stages. The DIVH i
            • But the fact that they were willing to manually override the auto wind triggers suggests that they either felt pressured with the closing of the launch window, or didn't trust enough in the reliability of those automated systems.

              It works better to have the automated system slightly conservative: to flag the weather as potential for a wind delay, and then have a human judgement serve as the go-ahead.
              You could do it the other way, with the automated system set to err on the side of "go for launch" in the cases requiring a human evaluation, and rely on human judgement to rule "no."

    • I think you mean Earth is hard. Space will present a host of additional challenges.

  • For a vehicle that is literally planned to be in development for about two decades, this is a rounding error anyway. The world is not going to stop turning or even much of a notice if it doesnt launch tomorrow, the next week or in the next couple of years.
    First of all, it is an engineering test article that is very far from what the final product is supposed to be, and the flight really mostly exist because nobody would otherwise believe the program exists and does anything. Ares-1X , anyone ?
    Second, it is

    • Re:rounding error (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Martin Blank ( 154261 ) on Thursday December 04, 2014 @10:02AM (#48522489) Homepage Journal

      While I'm not terribly enthusiastic about the Orion project, I do give them some credit that you clearly don't. A moon mission is to be possible with a single launch, similar to the Apollo missions. (I think a near-Earth asteroid will also be possible in one launch.) I believe a Mars mission is expected to be 2-3 launches, with the last one the manned launch, followed by docking in orbit and then leaving for Mars.

      The setup flying from the Delta IV Heavy is only part of the stack. When the SLS launches, it will have a payload capacity of 130 tons, compared to the Delta IV Heavy's 23 tons. (The Saturn V could lift 118 tons.) That's a lot more hardware and fuel that can be lofted.

      • by Eevee ( 535658 )

        When the SLS launches,

        Surely you mean If the SLS launches. Does Ares I [] ring a bell?

        • The total cost of Ares development was expected to be upwards of $40 billion in 2009 dollars. The total cost of SLS development was expected to be $18 billion in 2011 dollars. It might not launch if Tea Partiers like Ted Cruz gets their way, but with the pro-NASA congressman expecting to head up the appropriations committee over the next two years, there's still a good chance it will.
      • more hardware and fuel could be lofted any day, there are plenty of operational launch vehicles all around the world.
        if you add up the actual launch capacity of all the operational rockets and pads you could put like thousand tons or more to orbit every year.
        to get to mars, you will need to launch more than once in any case. to get to moon in a useful capacity with more than flags and footprints, you will also need to launch more.

        what exactly is the point of spending another decade, tens of billions and bui

        • More launches mean more cost, especially if you're scattering it across launch pads located around the world. There aren't many sites that can handle significant launch masses: Cape Canaveral, Baikonur, Plesetsk, French Guiana, Jiuquan (China), Satish Dhawan (India), and Tanegashima (Japan). So you have enormous coordination between nations that have widely varying launch experience for their heavy lifters, that use different technologies and procedures, and have different goals for their space programs.

  • ... was down?

  • I thought it was weather. Nice job with the headline.

    • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

      wind=weather. And yes, when you're talking a 233 foot roman candle filled with cryogenic fuel, it's a showstopper.

  • I just wanted to take this opportunity to express how much I've cringed this week every single time an NPR newsreader mispronounced 'Orion' -- except Jack Speer, who actually pronounced it correctly.
  • Wouldn'y Orion get a bit cramped for a mission to Mars.

  • Wasn't Orion the name of a concept spacecraft powered by throwing nukes out the back and detonating them?

    (see Niven & Pounelle's Footfall)

    • Wasn't Orion the name of a concept spacecraft powered by throwing nukes out the back and detonating them?

      No, wasn't it the name of the Pan Am Space Clipper [] in 2001: A Space Odyssey []?

  • Is spaceflight haram?

I bet the human brain is a kludge. -- Marvin Minsky