The Orion spacecraft on a Delta IV Heavy rocket on the launchpad in Florida. NASA photo
The Orion spacecraft on a Delta IV Heavy rocket on the launchpad in Florida. NASA photo

The first flight of NASA’s Orion spacecraft was scrubbed Thursday morning due to equipment problems, but a San Diego-based recovery ship remained at sea for the next attempt on Friday.

The giant Delta IV Heavy rocket came close to liftoff several times, but was held first because of high winds at the launch site and then a problem with engine valves.

Sailors from the USS Anchorage test recovery of an Orion spacecraft. Navy photo

The San Diego-based USS Anchorage is scheduled to retrieve the craft after it flies. The San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship left Naval Base San Diego on Monday

The unmanned spacecraft is expected to complete two orbits of the earth, then land in the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles southwest of San Diego.

Once the capsule is in the water, Navy divers aboard small boats will maneuver alongside and rig tending lines to guide the capsule to the ship. After recovery, the Orion will be taken to San Diego.

The Anchorage, an amphibious transport dock successfully tested recovery of an Orion in September off the coast of San Diego.

The Orion is being designed to carry a crew of four astronauts on long-duration missions to an asteroid, the Moon or Mars. The first crewed flight is expected later in the decade.

The unmanned test will use the largest rocket currently available, but future manned flights will use NASA’s giant Space Launch System currently under development.

The last time a NASA vehicle that could carry people traveled so far into space was in 1972 with the last of the Apollo moon missions.

The Orion carries the STS-7 crew patch Dr. Sally Ride wore when she became the first American woman to fly in space. The late astronaut was a professor at UC San Diego.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.