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A United Launch Alliance Delta IV heavy rocket will launch the next National Reconnaissance Office payload from Cape Canaveral in August.

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A swing arm system at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station continues to present problems for the United Launch Alliance, forcing the company to delay its Delta IV Heavy rocket again and causing a disorienting shift in upcoming SpaceX missions.

The company on Sunday said the Launch Complex 37 teams were delaying another 24 hours and aiming only after midnight on Tuesday for the three-core rocket to take off, although an exact window was still being defined. Space Force expects the weather to be at 60% “go” during that window.

“Delta IV Heavy is ready for the launch of NROL-44, but we are taking additional precautions to ensure that all problems are resolved with the swing arm retraction system,” the company said Sunday morning.

Despite the commonly repeated line that SpaceX was waiting on Delta IV Heavy before launching its missions, the company confirmed on Sunday that a Falcon 9 rocket at the Kennedy Space Center will change seats and go ahead with a takeoff on Monday at 10:22. The flight from Pad 39A will bring 60 Internet Starlink satellites into orbit and will include a drone ship landing in the Atlantic Ocean.

The time for SpaceX to launch is 60% “go,” the Space Force said. The branch is responsible for managing the planning and support of the launch.

“I’d be lying if I told you that sometimes it’s not stressful,” Michael Ellis, director of SpaceX’s homeland security missions, said during a conference call with reporters. “But up to this point, we have two pads, we have dedicated teams to support concurrent operations, and we are able to work closely with the Space Force through our partnership.”

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At Launch Complex 37, ULA’s wishbone retraction system is designed to pull back the umbilicals, or power and communication connections to the rocket, just before takeoff. It is one of the few problems that forced ULA to delay the launch several times since the end of August; others included pressure regulators and tires.

When the Delta IV Heavy finally fires its hydrogen-powered RS-68 main engines with 2.1 million pounds of thrust, it will follow an eastern trajectory directly over the Atlantic Ocean.

While timing is important, flawless launch is the primary concern, especially for the ULA’s client: the secret National Reconnaissance Office, which manages the national intelligence-gathering satellite fleet. The cost of its national security satellites is generally measured in billions of dollars.

The delays from ULA were also thought to push SpaceX’s upcoming second flight, another Falcon 9 with a Global Positioning System satellite for the Space Force. That mission is still on the Space Force calendar at 9:55 pm. Tuesday – yes, less than 24 hours after Delta IV Heavy – although that may change depending on the availability of range support.

The time for that attempt at Launch Complex 40, which includes a post-launch drone ship landing in the Atlantic, is 50% “go” since Sunday.

See our latest launch schedule at www.bit.ly/3czB11m.

Contact Emre Kelly at aekelly@floridatoday.com or 321-242-3715. Follow him Twitter, Facebook and Instagram on @EmreKelly. Support his space journalism by signing up at floridatoday.com/specialoffer/.

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Launch on Monday 28 September

  • Rocket: SpaceX Falcon 9
  • Mission: 60 Starlink Internet satellites
  • Launch time: 10:22 am ET
  • Launch Pad: 39A at Kennedy Space Center
  • Weather: 60% “go”

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Launch on Tuesday 29 September

  • Rocket: United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy
  • Mission: National Reconnaissance Office intelligence satellite
  • Launch time: immediately after midnight
  • Launch Complex: 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
  • Landing: drone ship
  • Weather: 60% “go”

Sign up at floridatoday.com/space starting at 10:30 pm. Monday for countdown chat and live video.

Launch on Tuesday 29 September

  • Rocket: SpaceX Falcon 9
  • Mission: Space Force Global Positioning System satellite
  • Launch time: 9:55 pm ET
  • Launch Complex: 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
  • Landing: drone ship
  • Weather: 50% “go”

Sign up at floridatoday.com/space starting at 8pm. Monday for countdown chat and live video.

Read or share this story: https://www.floridatoday.com/story/tech/science/space/2020/09/27/ula-delays-delta-iv-heavy-rocket-again-but-spacex-shifts- first-cape-canaveral / 3554082001 /