United Launch Alliance has been attempting to launch a spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office, valued at more than $1 billion, for quite a while now. On Tuesday evening, just hours before the company’s latest attempt to launch the large Delta IV Heavy booster, the mission was scrubbed again.
The weather at the launch site was far from optimal, but the mission was delayed due to a technical problem with the launch pad. What is notable is that this is now the third issue that the company, ULA, has experienced with its ground systems equipment at Space Launch Complex-37 in Cape Canaveral, Florida for this flight.
The mission, dubbed NROL-44, was originally due to launch in June. When it was delayed until late August, military officials did not cite a reason for the schedule slip. However, on August 29, everything seemed nominal as the three-core rocket counted down to liftoff from its Florida-based launch pad. The countdown reached zero, the three main RS-68 engines ignited, and the launch conductor said, “Liftoff!”
But the rocket did not lift off. Instead, even as fires rose around the three cores, the rocket stayed put during a hotfire abort. This last-second scrub delayed the mission for a