CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – This week started out with the likelihood of three launches in three days but a scrub earlier in the week caused a bit of reorganizing and now it’s possible there could be three launches in two days.
United Launch Alliance’s first attempt Thursday morning to send up a national security satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office ended in a scrub and the company will try again Saturday.
The national security payload is known as NROL-44. Liftoff of the Delta IV Heavy rocket was set for Thursday morning, but the first attempt was scrubbed due to an issue with a critical ground pneumatic control system. ULA’s team will need to evaluate and resolve the issue before another attempt.
If the issue is resolved, the next launch window is planned for Saturday from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The forecast shows an 80% chance of favorable weather conditions for launch. Liftoff time is 2:04 a.m. EDT.
According to ULA CEO Tory Bruno, the issue is with the gas ground system involved in preparing the rocket for launch.
“We had anomalous data from this system last night that had to be thoroughly understood before proceeding to ignition. The time to do this took us past the launch window,” Bruno said in a tweet Thursday.
ULA officials said Friday the assessment is complete and the grounds system is working as it should.
The scheduled change means SpaceX could attempt two launches on Sunday, including the landing of two rocket boosters. However, the weather could be a problem.
SpaceX is targeting Sunday to launch its own payload in the form of 60 Starlink satellites, marking the 12th round of internet-beaming satellites. This launch shifted from Saturday to Sunday in the rocket shuffle. Weather is currently 50% “Go” for the 10:12 a.m. liftoff from Kennedy Space Center Launchpad 39A.
The launch will push the Starlink constellation above 600. The company plans to roll out internet service with the fleet later this year, according to SpaceX’s website.
Later in the day, at 7:18 p.m. SpaceX could try to launch an Earth-observing satellite for Argentina, the 45th Space Wing forecast shows.
Due to the ULA scrub, SpaceX delayed its launch for the Argentina Space Agency, or CONAE, which was scheduled for Friday.
The forecast is only 40% favorable for liftoff on Sunday evening, according to weather officers with the 45th Space Wing.
This particular launch is unique because the satellite requires a polar orbit to get above the South Pole. It’s the first satellite with a polar-orbit launching from Florida since Nov. 30, 1960. Most polar launches happen from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base because a polar launch from Florida puts the rocket trajectory over land, specifically Cuba.
This launch will also include a landing back at Cape Canaveral, the first since March. All other rocket booster landings this year have been in the Atlantic Ocean on a droneship.
Again, it’s possible this could all change because of weather or technical issues. Stay with ClickOrlando.com/space for updates.
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Emilee is a digital journalist for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com, where she writes about space and Central Florida news. Previously, Emilee was a space writer and web editor for the Orlando Sentinel and a producer at the Naples Daily News.
World news – US – Rocket shuffle means 3 launches in 2 days possible this weekend