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Dec 04 2014

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Live blogging the Orion launch

Do I dare try to live blog tomorrow’s re-do? Sigh…yes, I’ll be here blogging. Hopefully I’m not bad luck for NASA.

6:34: Scrubbing the mission due to the valve issue. DAMMIT!!
6:24: They’re re-attempting to pressurize the tanks to hopefully reset the valves. Apparently the first attempt to do so didn’t fix the issue.
6:22: Dang it — it’s trash day and I had to step outside to take out the trash (wait, don’t I have kids for that very purpose?). Looks like I didn’t miss anything.
6:10: The drone from the USS Anchorage is airborne and providing video of the splashdown area.
6:05: They’re going to pressurize the fuel tanks and then vent down the pressure, then recycle the valves. Hopefully that’ll get them unstuck.
5:54: Checking my Linkedin groups, here’s a short video on Orion’s versatility and the modifications they plan for it:

5:48: Looks like recycling the valves is working. Stbd booster is cleared, and they’re working on the port side now.
5:45: One hour until the launch window closes. The pucker factor just increased exponentially. They’re still working the valve issue, but it does appear that the wind is dying down some.
5:38: I just noticed that the Air Force weather officer is named Kathy Winters. That is a great name for a weather officer! Yesterday, she predicted a 30% chance that the wind would disrupt the launch. I think that’s been bumped up to 100% now. Just judging from the TV, it looks like the wind is starting to ease a bit, so hopefully we’ll be launching soon.

5:31: They’re going to cycle all the fill and drain valves to reset them.
5:30: Apparently, this has happened before with the Delta IV Heavy…they’re trying to figure out how to proceed.
5:28: It was actually two values that didn’t close — one on the left booster, and one in the core engine.
5:27: Power switched back to external.
5:23: Another freakin’ hold. A fuel and drain valve did not close. C’mon, guys!! It’s not that hard! It’s all ball-bearings these days!

5:22: T-minus 4 minutes and counting. They must be just under the wind threshold, ’cause it looks the same wind-wise as it did before.
5:20: All stations report “Go” for launch.
5:18: Orion back on internal power.
5:14: They were able to fix the fuel issue using secondary measures. A new launch time has been set for 5:26am Pacific.
5:11: The fuel core temperature has exceeded limits, so they’re working on that now. Still windy.
5:10: I get why there are wind restrictions on launch, but NASA spends weeks generating interest in the launch, and all but the most nerdy space geek (ahem…) have tuned out. In this day and age of 5 second attention spans, from a PR-standpoint, this is a major bust.
4:57: There is a weather inversion that they are expecting to break within the next hour, and they’re confident the wind will die down by then.
4:54: Orion is back on external power.
4:53: More wind. I’d make a joke about breaking the wind…but I won’t.
4:52: Dang it — another hold on the count down. grumble Grumble GRUMBLE!!
4:51: T-minus 4 minutes and counting.
4:49: All stations report “Go” for launch.
4:47: Orion is now back on internal power.
4:44: New launch time is now 4:55am Pacific time.
4:42: Ask, and ye shall receive. There’s a 21 knot wind limit for launch, and the winds are right at the limit. They do expect the winds to die down shortly.
4:35: Ah, now I see the wind blowing in the foreground. I forget what the allowable wind is…I’m sure NASA TV will tell us before too long.
4:29: Launch window closes at 6:44am Pacific time. We’re back on a T-minus 9 minute countdown hold and they’ve put Orion back on external power while they wait for the wind to die down.
4:26: The anomaly was an expected, but non-documented, command-received alert. Looks like it is a documentation issue, not a rocket issue, so that’s a good thing.
4:22: Anomaly has cleared. No report on what the anomaly was. 2 hours 17 minutes remaining in the launch window.
4:19: An unexpected red alarm has occurred.
4:13: Count resumes at T-4 minutes. And 17 seconds later we are at a hold again due to a ground wind violation. It doesn’t look windy on TV, but it must be a bit gusty there. (I look forward to the day when rocket flight is so routine that a gust of wind won’t throw a monkey wrench into things.)
4:11: All stations report “Go” for launch.
4:09: Orion is transferring to its own internal power.
4:05: New launch time is now 4:17.
4:02: 27,000 people at the Kennedy Space Center to watch the launch. It sure would be cool to be there…
4:00: We’re at a hold at T-minus 4 minutes. There is a boat downrange. They estimate launching in about 9 minutes. Freakin’ tourists! They’re also still conditioning the propellant.
3:56: NASA TV on the big screen. (I hate to admit that the wife was right, but we needed a new TV.) It’s just after dawn in Florida, and the weather looks perfect for launch
3:40: Yawn…up in the morning before the rising Sun. It’s about 20 minutes until launch and I’ll be live blogging from launch until splashdown.

Here are my overall thoughts about the Orion launch: I predict it will go off without a hitch. NASA is touting this as a risk reduction event, but I don’t see much risk here. It’s exciting that Orion will soar past LEO, which is something NASA hasn’t done with a capsule launch in a generation…but that’s the thing — there’s nothing that’s going to occur today that NASA has not done in the past. Technology has evolved, and Orion is larger than the old Apollo capsules, but none of that makes today’s launch a breaking of new ground.

Still, it is something different for NASA, and they have been PR-ing the crap out of this launch, so that makes it an event worth watching. Personally, I believe there’s a 50-50 chance that this will be the only flight of Orion because of the iffy funding future it has, so in that sense, there *is* a lot riding on today as far as NASA is concerned. If Orion is not 100% successful today, it is difficult to see how the Orion program survives. The 50-50 chance is assuming things go swimmingly today…so the pressure is on.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2014/12/04/live-blogging-the-orion-launch/

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