Pad hardware issues forced United Launch Alliance to scrub the liftoff of an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday, setting the stage for a 48-hour turnaround and giving SpaceX an opportunity to fly in between.
ULA called the scrub just before 6 p.m. after teams entered the pad area to fix issues with the liquid oxygen system, which is responsible for loading the supercooled propellant into Atlas V. They were unable to resolve the issue in time to allow the 206-foot rocket to fly before the 8:10 p.m. window closure.
In a statement, ULA said the mission was called off “due to an unexpected system response from remotely commanded ground system liquid oxygen valves.”
The company is now targeting no earlier than 48 hours – Friday evening – for its next attempt to launch a clandestine intelligence-gathering satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. An exact window was not immediately available.
The 48-hour delay gives SpaceX time to launch its next mission from nearby Launch Complex 40. Teams there are preparing a Falcon 9 rocket and Space Force Global Positioning System satellite for a 6:24 p.m. Thursday liftoff.
Weather for that attempt is 60% “go,” Space Force forecasters said Wednesday.
The GPS mission was scrubbed once before in October, leading SpaceX to discover issues with the Merlin main engines’ propellant pumps. The company said a buildup of masking lacquer in a valve caused them to start too soon, leading to a potential “hard start.”
The Thursday launch is not only critical for the Space Force’s GPS constellation, but NASA, too – the agency wants to see good data from the Merlin engines before proceeding with the flight of four astronauts on a separate Falcon 9 rocket, currently slated for 7:49 p.m. on Nov. 14. If GPS can lift off on time and the data looks promising, NASA will likely opt to proceed.
The astronauts for that Crew-1 launch – SpaceX’s first fully certified mission to the International Space Station – are slated to arrive at Kennedy Space Center on Sunday. NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, and Shannon Walker, along with Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, will have a packed schedule of rehearsals and time with their families before liftoff from pad 39A.
See our full launch schedule at floridatoday.com/launchschedule.
Launch Thursday, Nov. 5
- Rocket: SpaceX Falcon 9
- Payload: Space Force GPS satellite
- Launch Time: 6:24 p.m.
- Launch Window: to 6:39 p.m.
- Launch Complex: 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
- Landing: Drone ship
- Weather: 60% “go”
Visit floridatoday.com/space for live video and chat beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday.
This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Hardware forces ULA to scrub Atlas V launch; SpaceX next on the schedule