Exploration Flight Test-1 (Delta IV-Heavy)
5 December 2014
Space Launch Complex 37
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Images from the launch of Exploration Flight Test-1 to test NASA's new Orion spacecraft on a four and a half hour flight into Earth orbit carried by a United Launch Alliance Delta IV-Heavy rocket. Designed to take astronauts to the Moon and Mars, this unmanned flight looped around the Earth twice reaching as high as 3,600 nautical miles above the Earth before plunging down in a high speed reentry designed to test the heat shield at 84% of the speed the spacecraft will attain returning from future missions to the Moon. Orion successfully splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California where it was recovered by two U.S. Navy ships.
A purple dawn marks the first launch attempt on 4 December 2014 with the Delta IV-Heavy poised for launch at Space Launch Complex 37.
Multiple holds, first for a boat in the launch area (not the one pictured above), two holds for winds gusting above launch limits, and, finally, two holds for sluggish fill and drain valves in two of the booster rockets ran the clock out on the launch window scrubbing the launch for the day. The sunny weather would be missed the second day, which came in cloudy and rainy.
A surveillance helicopter from nearby Patrick Air Force Base makes its rounds at dawn on 5 December 2014.
Launch occurred at 7:05 a.m. on 5 December 2014 into a disappointingly dark and cloudy sky. The last two images had to be really pushed to bring out details against the dark, gray sky. The rocket was only visible for a few moments before it disappeared into the clouds.
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