Computers controlling United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy aborted a mission just seconds before its planned launch from Cape Canaveral early Saturday, marking the second scrub for the rocket and pushing its next attempt at least a week out.
Three seconds before the planned 3:28 a.m. liftoff from Launch Complex 37, a “Terminal Count Sequencer Rack” commanded the rocket’s three RS-68A engines to stop firing and abort the launch. A reason for the hot fire abort was not immediately clear and a new liftoff window is at least a week away as teams work the issue.
“The team is currently reviewing all data and will determine the path forward,” ULA said in a statement. “The required recycle time prior to the next launch attempt is seven days minimum.”
The scrub came after teams had to work through a separate anomaly related to out-of-limits temperatures in the rocket’s interstage, which sits between the first and second stages. That pushed the liftoff time well into the window, initially opened at 2:04 a.m., but teams were able to resolve it and push forward.
The mission for the secretive National Reconnaissance Office, known as NROL-44, also suffered hardware issues during its first attempt early Thursday. Pneumatics in ground-based hardware weren’t acting as expected, forcing ULA to scrub and delay to Saturday.
Moving forward, engineers will likely have to inspect and possibly swap out hardware impacted by the engines’ brief firing.
“The bird is in good shape,” ULA CEO Tory Bruno said via Twitter. “Cause appears to have been in the ground system. System functioned as intended to protect the vehicle and payload.”
What this means for other launches on the Eastern Range, however, remains unclear. SpaceX was hoping to launch two Falcon 9s on Sunday – one mission from nearby Launch Complex 40 and another from Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39A. Both would have been about nine hours apart.
The first planned flight to launch a batch of roughly 60 Starlink satellites could still fly from pad 39A at 10:12 a.m. Sunday, but the second – an Argentinian satellite boosted through a southbound polar corridor – will likely have to wait until Delta IV Heavy is off the pad.
Contact Emre Kelly at [email protected] or 321-242-3715. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @EmreKelly. Support his space journalism by subscribing at floridatoday.com/specialoffer/.
World news – US – ULA’s three-core Delta IV Heavy rocket scrubs a second time; next attempt unclear