NASA and industry teams at Cape Canaveral launched an Orion capsule on a three-minute atmospheric test flight Tuesday to prove the spaceship’s ability to escape from an exploding rocket during launch, demonstrating a key safety feature before astronauts ride the vehicle into deep space. Liftoff occurred at 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT).
Near the end of a ground-shaking test firing of Northrop Grumman’s solid-propellant Castor 600 rocket motor — the first stage of a new booster being designed to launch spy satellites and other national security payloads — a major part of the rocket’s big nozzle appeared to break apart, littering the test site with shards of debris.
NASA flight engineer Anne McClain grappled Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus supply ship with the International Space Station’s robotic arm Friday, marking the automated cargo freighter’s arrival after an abbreviated day-and-a-half-long journey from a launch pad in Virginia with nearly 7,600 pounds of experiments, food and provisions.
Northrop Grumman is gearing up for up to four launches this year at Wallops Island, Virginia, including two launches with Cygnus cargo ships heading to the International Space Station, and a pair of Minotaur rocket flights carrying classified payloads into orbit for the U.S. government’s spy satellite agency.