Rocket Science

Launch of Delta IV Delayed; Shuttle Launch Options Weighed

Article written: 20 Nov , 2010
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

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Those waiting for a launch from Florida’s Space Coast will have to wait a little more. The liftoff of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket has been pushed back yet again, and is now scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 21 at 5:58 p.m. EST (2258 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC 37) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rocket will carry a National Reconnaissance Office payload.

Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today.

Delayed from the 18th, the next countdown started on Friday, but this too was not to be. As technicians started to fuel up the rocket’s twin strap on boosters encountered temperature anomalies. Engineers did not want to give an estimate as to when the rocket will be ready for launch – until they had a chance to unload the fuel and give the vehicle a closer look.

The Delta IV with a NRO payload. Photo Credit: Universe Today/Alan Walters - awaltersphoto.com

The payload for this mission is a classified spy satellite. In media advisories released by the 45th Space Wing it is described only as a ‘Galaxy 3.’ The 45th is stationed out of Patrick Air Force Base. The Delta IV Heavy is the largest rocket in the Delta 4 family, with three booster cores combined to form what is essentially a triple-bodied rocket.

As far as space shuttle Discovery, NASA managers are still keeping all their options open. Inspectors this week found a fourth crack in support beams on the external fuel tanks of the space shuttle. The work to repair the cracks is ongoing, but the teams will need to complete an engineering review and develop the necessary flight rationale in order to launch with a damaged tank. On Thursday, NASA announced that the flight will launch no earlier than Dec. 3, four days after the opening of a short end-of-year launch window.

The window closes Dec. 6. If NASA cannot get Discovery off the ground in the next available launch window, there is only one other planned launch at KSC/CCAFS for this year. This is the Dec. 7 launch of SpaceX’s Falcon-9 with its Dragon spacecraft payload. If this launch happens before the end of this year, it will mark the first demonstration flight of the $1.6 billion Commercial Orbital Transportation Services contract that the private space firm has with the space agency.

Photo Credit: Universe Today/Alan Walters - awaltersphoto.com


14 Responses

  1. Uncle Fred says

    Gotta keep feeding the military industrial complex…. sigh..

  2. Torbjorn Larsson OM says

    … yeah; and the future of US space launches, SpaceX, keeps getting delayed because yesterdays Shuttle remains so much unreliable crap.

  3. TerryG says

    “If NASA can not get Discovery off the ground in the next available launch window, there is only one other planned launch….Falcon-9/Dragon”.

    Following on from Torbjorn Larsson OM, IIRC, some of Discovery’s crew received ISS-Dragon operations training for the upcoming test flight. So it’s less than clear how the test flight happens with Discovery’s crew’s still on the ground if it came to that.

  4. Torbjorn Larsson OM says

    TerryG, point. IIRC the Dragon ISS approach hardware is already installed though. (Or at least tested in orbit conditions.)

    But I don’t think this first COTS is going anywhere near ISS, it is a craft function test:

    “The upcoming demonstration mission will launch from Cape Canaveral and should follow a flight plan nearly identical to the first Falcon 9 launch, but this time the Dragon spacecraft will separate from the second stage and will demonstrate operational communications, navigation, maneuvering and reentry. Although it does not have wings like Shuttle, the Dragon spacecraft is controlled throughout reentry by the onboard Draco thrusters which enable the spacecraft to touchdown at a very precise location – ultimately within a few hundred yards of its target.

    For this first demo flight, Dragon will make multiple orbits of the Earth as we test all of its systems, and will then fire its thrusters to begin reentry, returning to Earth for a Pacific Ocean splashdown off the coast of Southern California. The entire mission should last around four hours.”

  5. Random63 says

    @Torbjorrn Larsson OM “shuttle remaiins so much unreliable crap.” I take offense at that. I worked on Discovery and she is a wonderful and reliable spacecraft. It’s know it all idiots like you that have never touched a spacecraft that spew out such “crap” that sullies the debate on our future in HSF.

    SpaceX is not the future and I am sure will eventually fade away. See http://www.rv-103.com/?cat=98 Constellation was the future and people like you threw it all away for something new and shiny based on nothing but “hope and change.”

    Sorry, illi-informed comments like that one above just really ticks me off because of their ignorance..

  6. Torbjorn Larsson OM says

    random63:

    Good one, answering a substantive and substantiated (since the reason the Shuttle didn’t launch *is* a reliability issue) comment with a personal attack. But FWIW I have touched spacecraft and was in the initial running for the swedish astronaut position – I have a personal interest here, which shouldn’t be dismissed by sloppy thinking.

    As for the future, your comment doesn’t make sense. If Constellation *was* “the future”, well then surviving technology like SpaceX *is* the future or at least the near term such. I’m not interested in what could have worked (but the Augustine committee rejected that thoroughly, btw) but what is working.

  7. HelloBozos says

    I’m going to try an track this launch up live at:http: //www.nightskiesnetwork.com/ ,under channel name “hellobozos”
    The weather doesn’t look to good today(1pm est,Orlando,FL),they say 80 percent chance,I might still be clouded in if it goes

  8. Random63 says

    torbjorrn

    I apologize for the personal attack. It was unprofessional of me. My feelings and educated opinions of Constellation and SpaceX still stand.

  9. tripleclean says

    What makes this Dragon/Falcon or space – X good? Does it really splash down in the ocean? Won’t people say shut it down as soon as somebody drounds because water recoverys are no give me, heck in training dumbies are used just so you dont kill them praticing to save life…There are so many reasons why splashing down is just dumb so our space people built something better, it’s called the space shuttle and people take it for granted or say it’s routine and forget that it is flat out by far the coolest flying machine ever!

  10. Lawrence B. Crowell says

    In some ways I am in favor of the INTEL-SATS and other systems. This is because one of their central jobs is to verify treaty terms and enforcement. Of course our knuckleheaded Congess does not want to sign the START treaty. Stupid stupid stupid — it’s stuff like that which keeps the world half way safe, and NRO’s main job is to deploy systems which can verify treaty terms.

    LC

  11. HeadAroundU says

    Torbjorn, it was a bit over the edge.

  12. Paul Eaton-Jones says

    Oh come on people! The shuttle has NOT been an unqualified success whether it was the machine itself or the people who managed it. Budget cuts and technical shortcuts have contributed to a massive sense of disappointment and underachievement. Future historians will not look back on this as one of NASA’s successes. If that goes against the grain then hard cheese.

  13. Jason Rhian says

    Jay – Not trying to excuse myself but I write for four different outlets as well as a local newspaper – mistakes happen.

    Thanks though, I appreciate the constructive criticism – some folks can be real snarky!

    🙂

  14. Jay Rider says

    @Jason: some spelling and grammatical errors:
    2nd para: “unload the fuel and five the vehicle a closer look.” should be give
    4th para: “On Thursday, NASA the flight will launch” Nasa said

    You got to keep the grammar in check for such a high quality site like UT 🙂
    cheers

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