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NASA's Orion Capsule Built To Take Humans Into Deep Space

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In Florida after delays for weather and also a technical glitch, NASA officials have now scrubbed today's launch of a new space capsule. As NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reports, NASA has a lot riding on this rocket launch.

GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: It was all going so well. The sky had cleared. The winds had died down. The new capsule called Orion was sitting on top of its rocket with just over three minutes to launch when all of a sudden...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Hold, hold, hold. Fuel one fueling drain not closed.

BRUMFIEL: A couple of stuck valves on the rocket forced mission control to abort the launch. It was an anti-climactic end to what NASA had hoped would be a big day. It has spent years and billions of dollars building Orion. And Bill Gerstenmaier, the head of human space flight at NASA, says the only way to make sure the new capsule works is to launch it into space.

BILL GERSTENMAIER: You know, we spend a lot of time in labs and simulators making sure all these things are ready to go, but you really never know how the vehicle is going to perform until you really take it to flight.

BRUMFIEL: This was the first test. NASA won't put astronauts on board until the 2020s. And compared to that timeline, today's setback is brief. The space agency plans to try and launch again tomorrow morning. Geoff Brumfiel, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.