Thursday, October 2, 2014

Delta IV Rocket for Orion Test Flight Rolls Out to Launch Pad

The Delta IV rocket slated to carry NASA's Orion capsule into space in December is lifted into the vertical position at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 37, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Credit: ULA

The rocket that will boost NASA's Orion capsule on its first spaceflight in just over two months is standing on its launch pad, a day later than planned due to this week's persistent rain. Conditions finally cleared to allow United Launch Alliance (ULA) to begin rolling a Delta IV Heavy rocket out of its processing hangar at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 9:50 p.m. Tuesday. Orion was moved Sunday out of the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the Delta IV Heavy rocket, built by ULA, made its move Tuesday night, to nearby Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. It was raised Wednesday from the horizontal position into its vertical launch configuration. “This is a tremendous milestone and gets us one step closer to our launch later this year,” said Tony Taliancich, ULA’s director of East Coast Launch Operations. “The team has worked extremely hard to ensure this vehicle is processed with the utmost attention to detail and focus on mission success."

The Heavy configuration, which is made up of three Delta IV core stages with one RS-68 engine, is one of the strongest rockets available to NASA while the agency builds the Space Launch System.

“The Delta IV Heavy is the world’s most powerful launch vehicle flying today, and we are excited to be supporting our customer for this critical flight test to collect data and reduce overall mission risks and costs for the program,” said Taliancich. 

The rocket’s three Common Booster Cores were tested, processed and attached to each other to form the first stage that will connect to Orion’s service module.

“We’ve been working toward this launch for months, and we’re in the final stretch,” said NASA's Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana. “Orion is almost complete and the rocket that will send it into space is on the launch pad. We’re 64 days away from taking the next step in deep space exploration.”

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket that will send NASA’s Orion spacecraft on its first flight test in December was moved to its vertical launch position Oct. 1 at Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The rocket is secured on the Elevated Platform Transporter. Image Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis
The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket that will send NASA’s Orion spacecraft on its first flight test in December was moved to its vertical launch position Oct. 1 at Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The rocket is secured on the Elevated Platform Transporter. Image Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

ULA will conduct a high fidelity rehearsal to include fully powering up the booster and loading the tanks with fuel and oxidizer. In November the Orion spacecraft, built by prime contractor Lockheed Martin, will be moved to the pad and placed on top of the Delta IV rocket.

Following its targeted Dec. 4 launch, the Delta IV Heavy will send Orion 3,600 miles above Earth to test the spacecraft’s systems most critical to crew safety. After orbiting Earth twice, Orion will reenter Earth’s atmosphere at 20,000 miles per hour, generating temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, before it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean. The launch window on Dec. 4 is 7:04 a.m. to 9:44 a.m.

Orion is being built to send humans farther than ever before, including to an asteroid and Mars. Although the spacecraft will be uncrewed during its December flight, which is designated Exploration Flight Test-1, the crew module will be used to transport astronauts safely to and from space on future missions. Orion will provide living quarters for up to 21 days, while longer missions will incorporate an additional habitat to provide extra space.

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