Orion 'Mars ship': rogue boat and wind postpone space capsule launch

Launch was delayed four times, by one rogue boat, two gusts of wind and a fuel valve

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Nasa is preparing for the last attempt to launch the Orion mission this afternoon, taking the final chance in the 3 hours launch window, after a range of problems hit the test flight for the capsule that could one day take humans to an asteroid or to Mars.

The launch was delayed four times this morning, after a rogue boat first found its way into the water around the launch area in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and then strong winds led the launch to be postponed again. A fourth attempt was delayed after fuel valves failed to close.

All of the systems on the mission remain in good condition, Nasa said, and they will look to re-launch the mission as soon as the external problems are solved.

Nasa said that it was then targetting a launch at 7.55am local time, or 12.55pm GMT. But in the leadup to that launch, an automatic system detected that there there was too much wind and cancelled the countdown.

The agency said that they would try again for a fourth launch. The weather is expected to change at around 1.4pm GMT, which Nasa says could bring more favourable conditions.

But that launch ran into problems, as fuel valves failed to close and the countdown was cancelled once again.

Some in the lead-up to the launch had expected that the weather could cause it to be delayed, Nasa said on its live feed. The agency said earlier this week that there was a 60% chance that the weather would hold and the launch would happen successfully.

The mission's success will be important to Nasa, as it will test the capsule that could one day land humans on an asteroid or on Mars.

“There's a boat in the launch area,” Nasa said on Twitter, minutes before the rocket was supposed to take off. “Teams are working to remove the boat from the area.”

Nasa set a new launch for 7.17am local time, or 12.17pm GMT, after the boat was removed.

The launch window extends for just under 3 hours, which will mean that the launch could happen any time until 2.44pm GMT.

The first delay was announced only around 5 minutes before the scheduled launch, and was announced on Nasa’s live feed, which can be viewed here. The delay was clearly unexpected by Nasa’s live commenter, who went quiet and gave way to mission control who — in a jargon-heavy conversation — discussed the removal of the boat and setting the new launch time.