With a budget battle looming and its Ares I rocket program all but dead, today NASA test-fired its $220 million Orion crew capsule, which it is currently repurposing into an escape vehicle, per President Obama's new vision for NASA. Conducted at the Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the launch came off without a hitch, launching Orion more than a mile skyward before deploying parachutes and drifting back to the desert floor a mile from the launch site.
"Wow, that went like clockwork from what I can see," said Jay Estes, NASA's deputy manager of the Orion project office. "That's an amazing test."
In a speech to NASA employees and the nation on April 15, President Obama unveiled a vision for U.S. space exploration that didn't include Constellation or development of its Ares I rocket. The next day, Constellation Program Manager Jeff Hanley issued his response to Obama: Not so fast.