Friday, August 26, 2011

Orion Test at LC-46 in 2014

A Peacekeeper missile being tested at Vandenberg AFB in 2002. Source: Wikipedia.

Florida Today reports that NASA has chosen to move an Orion MPCV test flight from New Mexico to Cape Canaveral.

NASA intends to move a flight test of the abort system for the Orion crew exploration vehicle to Cape Canaveral from a missile range in New Mexico, and the agency is targeting March 2014 for the launch.

The test flight is to be staged at Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, according to an agency white paper obtained by FLORIDA TODAY.

The test originally was scheduled to take place at White Sands Missile Range because the Orion spacecraft initially was designed to return to Earth and parachute down to land. But NASA since has changed that plan, and now, the spacecraft will splash down in water.

The article states that a Peacekeeper missile will be used to launch Orion along with a Launch Abort System.

According to Wikipedia, the Peacekeeper missiles were to be decommissioned under the START II treaty. The treaty was never verified, but they were deactivated anyway. Some of the missiles were converted by Orbital Sciences for use as satellite launchers.

Launch Complex 46. Photo source: Space Florida.

LC-46 is leased to Space Florida. Originally built for land-based testing of Trident submarine missiles, it has been renovated for use by government and commercial launchers. To quote from the Space Florida web site:

Among Space Florida’s notable launches at LC-46 is NASA’s Lunar Prospector successfully launched in January 1998 and in January 1999, the Republic of China successfully launched ROCSAT-1. Both missions used Lockheed-Martin Athena rockets.

Apparently the ROCSAT-1 launch on January 27, 1999 was the last launch from LC-46.

UPDATE August 27, 2011Florida Today updates the original article with a lengthier version that appeared in today's print edition.

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