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.
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.
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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.