The Orion spacecraft that sits atop the Delta IV Heavy arrived at Kennedy Space Center in the summer of 2012 so it could be assembled from a pressure vessel into a full-functioning spacecraft. Lockheed Martin built up a factory floor and assembly area for the spacecraft at Kennedy’s Operations and Checkout Building – recently named for humanity’s first moonwalker, Neil Armstrong. Take a look at the steps involved with building a spacecraft and stacking the rocket to set up today’s lift off and flight.
Good morning from Florida, and welcome to our continuous coverage of the countdown, launch and flight of the Orion spacecraft on its first flight test. We are 2 hours and 5 minutes from the launch of Orion on a Delta IV Heavy rocket, the largest rocket in America’s current inventory.
There are no technical problems reported or being worked at this time and the weather forecast still calls for a 70 percent chance of acceptable conditions when our launch window opens at 7:05 a.m. EST. Between now and then, we will let you know as the Orion launch and mission control teams pass key milestones. We’ll also give you some context for what this mission means to Orion’s development and to the nation’s ambitions to send astronauts on deep space exploration missions in the future, including eventual flights to Mars.
Stick with us throughout the mission, too, because we’ll be here through Orion’s Pacific Ocean splashdown about 4.5 hours after launch.
Preparations for Orion’s flight test are progressing smoothly ahead of a scheduled 7:05 a.m. EST liftoff today. United Launch Alliance has begun fueling the Delta IV Heavy rocket with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Weather remains forecast to be 70 percent “go” at the time of liftoff. Today’s launch will take place from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean at the end of the flight.
The launch team has given a “go” for cryogenic tanking. The weather forecast continues to call for a 70 percent chance of acceptable conditions this morning.
The Mobile Service Tower at Space Launch Complex 37 has been moved away from the launch stand where a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy and Orion spacecraft stand pointed skyward for launch Thursday morning. Weather forecasts continue to call for favorable conditions at launch time and there are no technical concerns reported tonight. Liftoff of Orion’s first flight test is scheduled for 7:05 a.m. EST, the opening of a 2-hour, 39-minute window. Our continuous countdown and mission coverage will begin at 4:30 a.m. EST. NASA TV will begin coverage of the mission at the same time. You can stream NASA TV throughout the countdown and flight of Orion at www.nasa.gov/nasatv.
Meteorologists upgraded their outlook for Orion’s launch tomorrow morning to give it a 70 percent chance of acceptable conditions. The forecast says drier conditions are expected and the chance of coastal showers has diminished during the 2-hour, 39-minute launch window. The primary rules concerns remain flight through precipitation and high winds.
With less than 23 hours remaining before Orion begins its first flight test with a launch on a Delta IV Heavy rocket, everything remains on track for liftoff at 7:05 a.m. EST. The Mobile Service Tower enclosing the rocket and spacecraft will be rolled back to its launch position late tonight, revealing the Orion stack on the launch stand at Space Launch Complex 37.
Launch and mission control teams will report to their consoles in Florida and Houston at about 3:30 a.m. EST. Our continuous countdown, launch and mission coverage will begin at 4:30 a.m. here on the Orion Blog and on NASA TV which is available on air and streaming at www.nasa.gov/nasatv
Managers from United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Lockheed Martin gave a “go” to proceed toward launch pending completion of open work during the Launch Readiness Review for Orion’s flight test. The weather is forecast to be 60 percent “go” for a scheduled liftoff at 7:05 a.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 4.
NASA TV will air an Orion Flight Test Status and Overview briefing at 1 p.m. today. On Dec. 3, a prelaunch status briefing will be held at 11 a.m. A NASA overview event with participation from social media followers will air at 1 p.m.
Meteorologists have not changed their prediction for Thursday morning’s weather and they continue to call for a 60 percent chance of acceptable conditions for Orion’s lift off on its first flight test. The launch window opens at 7:05 a.m. EST and closes 2 hours, 39 minutes later at about 9:44 a.m. The concern remains early morning precipitation at or near the Florida spaceport. NASA reserved the Eastern Range for Friday and Saturday as well, in case Thursday’s launch opportunity is not made.
NASA TV will air to in-depth briefings today about Orion and its place in NASA’s plans to explore deep space including an eventual journey to Mars. Tune in or catch the NASA TV stream at www.nasa.gov/nasatv beginning at noon EST for the Journey to Mars briefing from NASA Headquarters and Kennedy Space Center, then at 1 p.m. EST for the Orion Flight Test Status and Overview briefing.
Orion’s Mission Management Team will meet this afternoon to evaluate the status of the spacecraft and go over what steps are left before the mission lifts off in two days.
The Orion spacecraft will take crews farther from Earth than any human-rated spacecraft since Apollo. The first step of that adventure comes this week when the Orion flight test sends an uncrewed version of the capsule about 3,600 miles above Earth – far enough to encounter the high radiation zones that circle the planet and measure their effects on the inside of the spacecraft. On its way back home, Orion’s heat shield will bear the brunt of scorching plasma as the spacecraft dives into the atmosphere at 20,000 mph before slowing for splashdown.
It’s a stress test for more than the spacecraft, of course – people from NASA and Lockheed Martin along with scores of others involved in the program will watch every readout carefully. No matter what happens, the flight test has already made strides in development of America’s next deep-space vehicle for astronauts. Find out all the details of the 4.5-hour mission and what has gone into getting Orion ready for flight in our extensive preview story at http://go.nasa.gov/1HUIins
Welcome to Launch Week for the Orion Flight Test! Meteorologists issued a forecast this morning calling for a 60 percent chance of acceptable launch conditions Thursday morning for the liftoff of the Orion spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket. The concern is an expected pattern that could see low clouds and sporadic showers move in from the Atlantic later this week, possibly violating launch criteria designed to prevent the rocket from flying through precipitation. The conditions could also kick up winds too high for a safe liftoff, the forecasters said. Orion will have a 2-hour, 39-minute launch window Thursday. Forecasters are also watching conditions on the West Coast where U.S. Navy ships will gather to retrieve Orion from the Pacific following its 4.5-hour flight. Expected conditions will be favorable according to predictions with no precipitation expected Thursday.
At Space Launch Complex 37, technicians and engineers are finishing closeouts on the Orion/Delta IV Heavy stack and completed work inside the Orion crew module to get everything situated for space. No one will ride aboard Orion, but the spacecraft is carrying numerous sensors to measure conditions throughout the mission, including radiation and temperatures inside the crew module as it reaches 3,600 miles above Earth and then plunges through the atmosphere before opening its chutes and splashing down.