Friday, December 5, 2014

#Orion #EFT1 milestone launch sets the stage for the future of human spaceflight from Florida

The stage was set for +NASA Orion's maiden voyage, but a stray boat, weather delays and engine valve issues scrubbed the first launch attempt on Dec. 4th after exhausting the long launch window. The early morning launch window would have to be repeated the following day adding to the delirium of a long week. The night of the 4th I also ran a +Yuri's Night Space Coast Fundraiser where the proceeds will seed-fund teachers and events in the area to host events around April 12th, the anniversary of human spaceflight. The lack of sleep from the late night party and early Dec 5th morning added to the excitement of the imminent launch. The weather was stormy at 5am when we woke up (hours after tourists and VIPs had loaded on buses for the Kennedy Space Center viewing locations). We loaded up the van and headed to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Skid Strip (landing strip in the middle of their station) to for the second attempt. The crowd was about half the previous morning but just as excited. The weather was looking great and I think the experienced crowd at CCAFS knew that everything was on track for launch. Sure enough, the countdown proceeded and it was all systems go for launch! United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy rose like a giant building with three bright streams of fire below it. We watched it arc over us and towards space carrying Orion on a historic maiden voyage. The ‪#‎EFT1‬ (Exploration Flight Test 1) circled our planet twice before making a fiery re-entry into the Pacific Ocean. The images and videos of our planet were fantastic, a glimpse of what future astronauts may see. Look for those on +NASA's sites and across the social media-verse! This mission was particularly important for human spaceflight as it tested critical systems that are helping with the final design of the human-rated vehicle. The crowds were big, but not exactly Shuttle-like as predicted. They were significant compared to other launches. I was very happy to experience this slice of human spaceflight history. A very important part of this mission was that it did raise a lot of awareness for human spaceflight and it did energize the space community. The big question is, how long will that last and will it be enough until the next milestone event. A lot of people have been discussing "who will be first" between Lockheed's Orion and the capsules funded by NASA's Commercial Crew Program (SpaceX's Dragon and Boeing's CST-100), but personally, I like to think about a near-future where we can ask "who will be second? Third?" Go Orion!

Two birds in the air, but one heading for space and into the history books.
A look at the Delta IV Heavy and it's fiery triple tail slowing ascending with Orion snug up top.
A fun pic when the bird crossed the path of the rocket and it looked like a bird-shish-kabob

The official stats:
Dec. 5 Delta 4-Heavy   •  Orion EFT-1
Launch time: 1205 GMT (7:05 a.m. EST)
Launch site: SLC-37B, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

A United Launch Alliance Delta 4-Heavy rocket will launch NASA's Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle on Exploration Flight Test-1. The uncrewed test flight of the Orion spacecraft will reach an altitude of 3,600 miles before re-entering the atmosphere to demonstrate the capsule's heat shield. The largest of the Delta 4 family, the Heavy version features three Common Booster Cores mounted together to form a triple-body rocket. Delayed from September. Scrubbed on Dec. 4. See our Mission Status Center. [Dec. 5]


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