By Scott Powers and Marco Santana, Orlando Sentinel (TNS)
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER — NASA will have to try again Friday to launch its next-generation space capsule Orion after a wayward boat, wind gust and fuel valve problems scrubbed Thursday’s launch from Cape Canaveral Air Station.
The next launch time was set for 7:05 a.m. Friday
The four-hour, unmanned mission will give NASA a chance to test America’s new workhorse spacecraft. In coming decades, Orion is expected to carry astronauts deep into space: to the Moon, asteroids, Mars and beyond.
This flight will give NASA and Orion’s builder, Lockheed-Martin, critical information about how Orion jettisons parts of the rocket as it goes up; how aviation controls and computers function; and how electronics hold up in deep-space radiation.
Also being closely watched will be how its heat shields work as re-entry temperatures reach 4,000 degrees; and if its three sets of parachutes make the landing safe enough for humans.
Orion is set to orbit Earth twice, swinging out to 3,600 miles away – farther than any spacecraft designed to carry humans has gone since Apollo. From there it will reach a re-entry speed of 20,000 mph and splash down in the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles west of Baja California, Mexico.
Orion’s launch may be drawing more attention than anything that has happened at Kennedy Space Center since the last space shuttle program’s last mission in July 2011. Journalists from around the world have gathered.
Area hotels reportedly have seen a significant spike in bookings.
Earlier in the day, in nearby Space View Park in Titusville, about 250 people were anxiously awaiting the launch.
Hannah Marlow of Orlando said she made the trek to witness history. She said she hoped the launch would help encourage her generation to get involved in space.
“It’s a great moment for younger people,” said Marlow, 25.
Space industry insiders are as excited as anyone.
“Go, Big O, go!” said Ron Fortson, United Launch Alliance’s director of mission management.
Photo: NASA’s Orion spacecraft sits atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, at launch complex 37B at Cape Canaveral. The Orion crew capsule was scheduled to embark on its first voyage Thursday morning. The two-orbit, four-hour uncrewed flight test will evaluate the systems critical to crew safety. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)