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Heavy-lift Delta rocket fueled for second Orion launch attempt

Irene Klotz, Spaceflight Correspondent
Dec 5, 2014, 17:57 UTC

Sen—NASA hopes to defy the odds of poor weather and get its first Orion capsule into orbit on Friday for a trial run around the planet. 

Mission managers met early Friday morning and decided to proceed with fueling the Delta 4 Heavy despite weather forecasts that call for a 60 per cent chance of another delay. 

United Launch Alliance, which builds and flies the Delta and Atlas family of rockets, canceled its first launch attempt Thursday due to a problem with the two of the booster's fill-and-drain liquid oxygen valves. 

The Delta 4 Heavy rocket can be fueled twice in three days for launch attempts before storage tanks at the pad need to be replenished. That means that if the rocket does not fly on Friday, the next launch attempt will come no earlier than Sunday.

NASA hopes to send Orion twice around Earth, including a 3,600-mile (5,800-km) high pass that positions the capsule for a high-speed re-entry back into the atmosphere. Racing at 20,000 mph (32,000 km/h) when it hits the atmosphere, Orion will be close to the velocity of a spaceship returning from lunar orbit, the destination for the second Orion test flight in four years.

The flight is expected to end with Orion's parachute descent into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California about 4.5 hours after liftoff.