Orion ‘Mars ship’: Nasa cancels as launch hit by multiple problems, looks to reschedule

A rogue boat, strong winds, broken fuel valves and depleting batteries all stopped the launch this afternoon

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The Independent Online

The launch of the Orion space capsule, set for this afternoon, was cancelled after repeated attempts were called off because of a broken fuel valve and strong winds.

The launch was important to Nasa — as well as testing the capsule, it could also decide the future of commercial space exploration and Nasa’s Mars mission.

The first attempt at launching the capsule was postponed after a ‘rogue boat’ found its way into the launch area. Two tries were then spoiled by strong winds, and a final one was hit by a broken fuel valve.

Nasa had around three hours — between 12.05pm GMT and 2.45 GMT — in which to launch the ship. A final attempt was abandoned just as the final deadline approached.

By that time, batteries on a video system were running out, so the agency opted to wait until a possible try tomorrow.

“Despite the valiant attempts of the launch teams and mission managers around the country, we basically ran out of time in trying to troubleshoot the last of the issues, which was a problem with fill and drain valves on the [booster] of the heavy launch vehicle,” Michael Curie, the commentator on Nasa’s live feed, told viewers. “The valves had performed just fine throughout the day, until we got to the last [attempt].”

The program’s managers said shortly after that they would look to try again at launching the rocket on Friday afternoon. The potential launch would take place at the same time, 7.05AM local time, or 12.05PM GMT.

The rocket was set to blast the capsule 3,600 miles into space, before it headed back around four hours after launch. The rocket was fitted with 1,200 sensors to test whether humans would be able to survive the flight.

Lockheed Martin built the capsule and is staging the $370 million test flight.