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.
Orion will not carry a crew during this first flight test, but will be sent into orbit atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket. It will make two orbits of the Earth reaching out about 3,600 miles, 15 times farther than the International Space Station.
In a critical element of the test mission, the spacecraft will head into Earth’s atmosphere at high speed to evaluate Orion’s heat shield. That is important because the Orion is designed to take astronauts into deep space on missions to asteroids and eventually Mars. Returning to Earth on such missions means the spacecraft will reenter the atmosphere much faster than previous spacecraft, so the Orion will encounter more heat and thus its shielding will need to be strong enough to handle it.