United Launch Alliance (ULA) was forced to scrub the launch of its powerful Delta IV Heavy rocket with just seconds to go on Wednesday night.
The emergence of a hardware issue seven seconds before lift-off prevented the NROL44 mission from getting underway. It means the customer, the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), will have to wait a little longer for the deployment of its spy satellite.
ULA’s bid to launch the mission is proving to be something of a challenge. Two attempts were called off in August, with several additional efforts scrubbed in recent days due to both technical issues and weather conditions.
Mission Director Col. Chad Davis has called a scrub. ULA Launch Director Lou Mangieri has relayed the decision to the launch team that we will not continue with launch operations tonight.
— ULA (@ulalaunch) October 1, 2020
The powerful Delta IV Heavy rocket features three booster cores for extra thrust to enable it to deploy the satellite into a higher orbit. It’s the largest rocket in ULA’s fleet and the second most powerful rocket in operation today after SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy. The most powerful rocket ever to have taken flight was the Saturn V — the launch vehicle for crewed missions to the moon five decades ago. Plans for other super-heavy rockets include NASA’s SLS system, SpaceX’s Starship, and Blue Origin’s New Glenn.
The launch, when it finally happens, will be ULA’s 141st mission and its 29th for the NRO. It’ll also be the 385th Delta launch since 1960, the 12th Delta IV Heavy launch, and the 8th Heavy for the NRO. The Delta family of rockets has proved its reliability over the years and currently enjoys a near-perfect success rate.
How to watch
We’re now waiting for a new launch date to be announced by Colorado-based ULA, and we will update this article as soon as we know.
You’ll be able to watch the launch via ULA’s YouTube channel.
If you’re a fan of rocket launches and space missions, check out this Digital Trends compilation showing the most important ones that took place over the summer months.