NASA’s new Orion spacecraft now is at its launch pad after completing its penultimate journey in the early hours Wednesday. It arrived at Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 3:07 a.m. EST, where the spacecraft then was hoisted up about 200 feet and placed atop the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket that will carry it into orbit. Over the course of the three weeks that remain until the Dec. 4 liftoff, the spacecraft will be fully connected to the rocket and powered on for final testing and preparations.
NASA and Lockheed Martin leaders talked with news media about the importance of the upcoming flight test during a short session Monday at Kennedy.
The Orion spacecraft is ready to begin the final leg of its prelaunch journey with an overnight rollout from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Abort System Facility to Space Launch Complex 37 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Weather conditions at the Florida spaceport have improved significantly since yesterday evening, when winds and the threat of lightning violated safety rules and kept the spacecraft indoors one more night.
The six-hour journey to the launch pad is planned to begin at about 8:30 p.m. Orion is expected to arrive at the launch complex around 2 a.m. It will then be lifted into place and attached atop the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket.
Lockheed Martin and United Launch Alliance (ULA) have jointly decided to postpone by 24 hours the move of the Orion spacecraft from NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Abort System Facility to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 37. The forecast Monday evening calls for winds and lightning that violate the constraints established for safely moving Orion. The delay will not affect the planned Dec. 4 launch of Orion atop a ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket.
Engineers and technicians have completed their careful work in preparing the Orion spacecraft for launch and the time has come to move the next generation spaceship to the launch pad to United Launch Alliance’s waiting Delta IV-Heavy rocket. The move is the latest major milestone ahead of the launch of this first flight test which will be flown without a crew. The mission was designed to make sure the spacecraft and heat shield can handle the stresses envisioned for future flights that call for Orion to safely take astronauts beyond low Earth orbit to deep space destinations including asteroids. Orion is a vital element in NASA’s plan to eventually send astronauts on a journey to Mars.
Tonight though, Orion’s trip is confined to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. A news briefing at 4:30 p.m. ET will precede the move and include comments from Bob Cabana, director of Kennedy, Ellen Ochoa, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Mark Geyer, Orion’s program manager, and Mike Hawes, Lockheed Martin Orion program manager. The trip will begin at 8 p.m. at the Launch Abort System Facility where a 52-foot-tall protective fairing and the launch abort system were attached to the 10-foot, 11-inch-tall crew module. About six hours later, around 2 a.m., Orion will arrive at Space Launch Complex 37B. Orion will be lifted to the top of the Delta IV Heavy later that morning.
All of which sets the stage for a liftoff December 4 at 7:05 a.m. EST on a mission that will see Orion fly about 3,600 miles above Earth during two orbits before returning to the planet and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. It’s an important first step toward NASA’s next giant leap.