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NASA installs new digital countdown clock
by Brooks Hays
Cape Canaveral, Fla. (UPI) Dec 2, 2014

A new countdown display has been constructed in the place of the former analog countdown clock at the Press Site at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The display is a modern, digital LED display akin to stadium monitors. It allows television images to be shown along with numbers. Image Credit: NASA

Partner let me upgrade you. NASA has taken some of Beyonce's words to heart, finally deciding to retire its analog blastoff countdown clock and replace it with a digital version. From now on, the Jumbotron-like screen will handle all the countdown duties as well as broadcast live footage of prelaunch programming -- that includes this week's Orion launch.

The cost to install the new outdoor LED display on the Press Site at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida was $280,000. Officials say the seven-foot-tall screen, featuring 1,280 by 360 pixels of resolution, is worth the price.

"I think this is an upgrade that will really surprise news media with how much more information they will get to see while they are outside to watch the launch," NASA press officer George Diller said in a statement released by the agency.

Through the years, Diller's live commentary has regularly accompanied NASA's countdown programming, narrating the preparations and final countdown of space shuttle and rocket launches.

"It's really neat to be able to see the launch pad up close on the monitor while still experiencing the magic of seeing the countdown and then the rocket rise above the tree line," Diller said.

The new screen's first countdown duty will come this Thursday, as NASA prepares to send its much-anticipated Orion capsule on its first test flight. The spacecraft will be carried through the atmosphere and into low Earth orbit by a Delta IV Heavy rocket. After two orbits, Orion will return to Earth and splash down into the Pacific Ocean. The spacecraft is built to eventually carry astronauts into deep space but will be unmanned this flight.

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