Problems with faulty equipment again thwarted United Launch Alliance’s plans to send up its powerful Atlas V rocket and with it a secretive spy satellite.
At 5:54 p.m., what was supposed to be liftoff time for Wednesday’s launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Complex 41, the company tweeted that Mission Director Col. Chad Davis had declared a scrub. The launch will be postponed for at least two days.
The problem, ULA said, was a ground system valve involved with the rocket’s liquid oxygen system. A crew was dispatched to the launch pad to try to correct the issue, but it appears they were unsuccessful.
There were similar issues on Election Night, when the rocket was originally slated to launch. ULA rolled the rocket off the launch pad after heavy winds may have damaged a duct that’s used to help cool parts of the rocket. Another ULA launch for the NRO also was scrubbed multiple times for various issues with ground equipment before being called off indefinitely.
For this mission, the Altas V was poised to carry a classified national security satellite, known as NROL-101, that was built by and for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. The NRO has not disclosed any details about the payload but has said it will provide intelligence data to senior U.S. policymakers and the military.
It also would have been the first flight of an Atlas V rocket with GEM-63 boosters that will eventually be used on ULA’s under-development Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle. They are replacing the Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ-60A boosters it has previously flown with. The new Northrop Grumman-built boosters, ULA wrote in a blog post, are cheaper to build but deliver the same amount of thrust. On top of the 860,200 pounds of thrust the Atlas V’s main engines provide, these boosters contribute another 373,800 pounds.
If the launch had proceeded, it was expected to be visible from most parts of the state. Last year, when ULA launched a multibillion-dollar Air Force satellite aboard the same rocket, streaks across the sky were seen as far away as South Florida.
SpaceX also has launch plans for its Falcon 9 rocket this week. On Thursday, the company is set to launch a next-generation GPS satellite built by Lockheed Martin for the Air Force. Weather for the launch, which has a 15-minute window from 6:24 p.m. and 6:39 p.m., is at 60% go.
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United Launch Alliance, Atlas V, Rocket, Satellite recognition, SpaceX, Space launch
World news – US – Valve problem scrubs ULA launch from Cape Canaveral of classified spy satellite