Sensors Result in Delta IV Heavy, Falcon 9 Launch Scrubs

Launches of Delta IV Heavy and Falcon 9 rockets from Florida’s Space Coast were aborted with only seconds to go before liftoff less than 10 hours apart.

The countdown of an United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy was stopped 7 seconds before a planned 11:54 p.m. launch on Wednesday after a sensor detected an unidentified fault. Crews safed the vehicle on its launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The massive rocket is carrying the NROL-44 spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. ULA has not set a new launch date.

It was the sixth scrub or launch delay for the ULA booster since Aug. 27. Five of the delays occurred due to technical problems, the other resulted from weather.

Less than 10 hours later, an “out of family” ground sensor aborted the countdown of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center only 18 seconds before a planned 9:17 a.m. EDT liftoff.

The booster is carrying 60 spacecraft for the company’s Starlink satellite broadband constellation. SpaceX has not announced a new launch date for the flight.

Delta IV Heavy Performs Spectacularly Unnerving Nighttime Abort

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. — A Delta IV Heavy booster carrying a classified reconnaissance satellite experienced a nail biting abort early Saturday morning as flames licked at the bottom of the giant rocket.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) said the rocket’s automated control system aborted the launch at T minus 3 seconds. The engines on the Delta IV Heavy’s first-stage core and its two side boosters never ignited, the company said.

The abort occurred after the Delta IV Heavy’s radially outward firing initiators (ROFI) had begun firing as planned at T minus 15 seconds. The firing engulfed the bottom of the booster in flames, which is a normal occurrence.

Engineers safed the vehicle and began unloading propellant as a scrub was called. The cause of the abort is unclear, but ULA said it would take a minimum of seven days to recycle the launch.

The rocket’s payload was the NROL-44 satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. The payload is believed to be a signal intelligence gathering satellite.

It’s not known whether the abort will impact SpaceX’s plans to launch two Falcon 9 rockets on Sunday from a nearby pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Pad 39A at the adjoining Kennedy Space Center.

A Whole Bunch of Launches Scheduled — Again

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018, from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Parker Solar Probe is humanity’s first-ever mission into a part of the Sun’s atmosphere called the corona. Here it will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. (Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Bored beyond tears due to the lockdown? Got nothing to do and nowhere to go? Only reruns on the tube?

Stay home, grab some beers, and fire up that computer. There’s a whole bunch of launches on the schedule over the next four days. ULA, Rocket Lab, SpaceX, Astra and Arianespace are all back in action with six launches from three countries.

SpaceX will attempt two launches on the same day from Florida on Sunday. The company might also attempt a hop of its sixth Starship prototype this weekend. The timing for that is uncertain.

Remember: launches are subject to change without notice. And wagering is strictly prohibited.

August 29

UPDATE: The booster performed an abort at T minus 3 seconds. United Launch Alliance says it will be at least seven days before they can attempt another launch.

Launch Vehicle: Delta IV Heavy
Payload: NROL-44
Launch Time: 2:04 a.m. EDT (0612 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.ulalaunch.com/

An United Launch Alliance Delta 4-Heavy rocket will launch the classified NROL-44 satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.

August 29/30

UPDATE: New Electron launch date is Aug. 30/31 with the same launch window.

Launch Vehicle: Electron
Mission Name: “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Optical”
Payload: Sequoia
Launch Window: 11:05 p.m.-3:05 a.m. EDT on Aug. 29/30 (0305-0705 GMT on Aug. 29)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Webcast: www.rocketlabusa.com

Rocket Lab is back in action after the failure of its 13th launch on July 4. Electron will carry the Capella Space’s Sequoia synthetic aperture radar satellite on a dedicated mission.

August 30

UPDATE: Launch scrubbed due to weather. Next possible launch window is on Tuesday.

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Starlink 11
Launch Time: 10:08 a.m. EDT (1408 GMT)
Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com

The 12th batch of approximately 60 satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink broadband constellation.

August 30

UPDATE: Launch successful.

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: SAOCOM 1B
Launch Time: 7:19 p.m. EDT (2319 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com

SpaceX will launch the SAOCOM 1B environmental satellite for Argentina’s space agency, CONAE. The mission includes the first polar orbit launch from Cape Canaveral since February 1969. The Falcon 9 first stage will attempt a relatively rare return to land instead of touching down on an offshore drone ship.

August 30/31

UPDATE: Astra has postponed the launch to Sept. 10 from 10 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. EDT (7-9:30 p.m. PDT)

Launch Vehicle: Rocket 3.1
Payloads: None
Launch Window: 10:00 p.m.-12:30 a.m. EDT on Aug. 30/31 (0200-0430 GMT on Aug. 31
Launch Site: Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska
Webcast: none

Astra Space will attempt the first orbital flight of its inexpensive launch vehicle.

September 1/2

Launch Vehicle: Vega
Mission Name: Small Spacecraft Mission Service Proof of Concept (SSMS POF)
Payloads: 53 small satellites
Launch Time: 9:51:10 p.m. EDT on Sept. 1 (0151:10 GMT on Sept. 2)
Launch Site: Kourou, French Guiana
Webcast: Arianespace YouTube channel

Arianespace will attempt the first rideshare mission of its Vega booster. The window for the long delayed launch extends until Sept. 4.

Four Launches in Four Days Scheduled for Coming Week

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018, from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. (Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Are you ready for some launches?

Scattered shouts

I SAID, ARE YOU READY FOR SOME LAUNCHES?!

Crowd goes crazy

That’s better. As Doc Brown once said, starting Thursday you’re going see some serious s***.

August 27

Launch Vehicle: Delta 4 Heavy
Payload: NROL-44
Launch Time: 2:12 a.m. EDT (0612 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.ulalaunch.com/

An United Launch Alliance Delta 4-Heavy rocket will launch the classified NROL-44 satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.

August 28

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: SAOCOM 1B
Launch Time: 7:19 p.m. EDT (2319 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com

SpaceX will launch the SAOCOM 1B environmental satellite for Argentina’s space agency, CONAE. The mission includes the first polar orbit launch from Cape Canaveral since February 1969. The Falcon 9 first stage will attempt a relatively rare return to land instead of touching down on an offshore drone ship.

August 28/29

Launch Vehicle: Electron
Mission Name: “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Optical”
Payload: Sequoia
Launch Time: 11:05 p.m. EDT on Aug. 28/29 (0305 GMT on Aug. 29)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Webcast: www.rocketlabusa.com

Rocket Lab is back in action after the failure of its 13th launch on July 4. Electron will carry the Capella Space’s Sequoia synthetic aperture radar satellite on a dedicated mission.

August 30

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Starlink 11
Launch Time: 10:08 a.m. EDT (1408 GMT)
Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com

The 12th batch of approximately 60 satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink broadband constellation.

Note: Launches subject to change. Absolutely no wagering.

Space Force Awards National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Contracts to SpaceX & ULA

WASHINGTON, (AFNS) — The Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), in partnership with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), competitively awarded two Firm-Fixed-Price, Indefinite Delivery Requirement contracts for National Security Space launch services today to ULA and SpaceX.

“This is a groundbreaking day, culminating years of strategic planning and effort by the Department of the Air Force, NRO, and our launch service industry partners,” said Dr. William Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. “Maintaining a competitive launch market, servicing both government and commercial customers, is how we encourage continued innovation on assured access to space. Today’s awards mark a new epoch of space launch that will finally transition the Department off Russian RD-180 engines.”

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Minotaur IV Launches Classified Military Mission

A Northrop Grumman Minotaur IV successfully launched four National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) payloads on Wednesday morning.

The four-stage, solid-fuel booster was launched at 9:46 a.m. EDT from Pad 0B at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Va.

The NROL-129 mission was the NRO’s 54th launch since 1996 and its first launch on a Minotaur IV. A Minotaur rocket last flew from Wallops in 2013.

Minotaur IV’s first three stages use solid rocket motors from decommissioned Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missiles. The commercial Orion 38 rocket motor is used as the fourth stage.

Minotaur IV is capable of launching payloads up to 1,730 kg (3,814 lb.) to low Earth orbit; The booster made its maiden flight in April 2010.

Minotaur Rocket Launching Wednesday Morning from NASA Wallops

A Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifts off from at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — A Minotaur IV rocket carrying a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is scheduled for launch July 15, 2020, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The launch vehicle, built and operated by Northrop Grumman, is scheduled for liftoff from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s (MARS) Pad 0B. The window opens at 9 a.m.

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Rocket Lab Wins Contract for Back-to-Back NRO Launches

Electron lifts off from the Mahia Peninsula on its 12th flight on June 13, 2020. (Credit; Rocket Lab webcast)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab, the Long Beach headquartered global leader in small satellite launch, has signed a launch agreement with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) for two back-to-back dedicated small satellite missions aboard an Electron launch vehicle. 

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Rocket Lab Launches 12th Electron Rocket

Electron lifts off from the Mahia Peninsula on its 12th flight on June 13, 2020. (Credit; Rocket Lab webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Rocket Lab launched an Electron rocket carrying five small satellites from Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand on Saturday.

The booster’s kick stage with the spacecraft aboard successfully separated from the second stage. The kick stage is now deploying the satellites into their planned orbits.

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Schedule for Upcoming Launches

Electron rocket lifts off on Jan. 31, 2020. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

The week ahead features launches by Rocket Lab and SpaceX, Vega’s first rideshare mission, two Chinese launches, and a Japanese sounding rocket flight.

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Working Toward an Autonomous Future Starts Now for NASA, Partners

Lunar Gateway concept. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 15 years, will there be robots building large structures, spacecraft fixing themselves and telescopes making decisions about what to study next? The Science and Technology Partnership Forum – an interagency collaboration with principal partners NASA, the U.S. Space Force and the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office – is working to answer questions like these to turn the possibilities into reality.

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Rocket Lab’s Next Mission to Launch Satellites for NASA, NRO and the University of New South Wales

Electron rocket lifts off on Jan. 31, 2020. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Rocket Lab’s next rideshare mission will enable university research into Earth’s magnetic field, support the testing of new smallsat communications architecture and demonstrate a streamlined, commercial approach for getting government small satellites into space.

Long Beach, Calif. (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab, a space technology company and the global leader in dedicated small satellite launch, has announced today that its next mission will deploy payloads for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra Space.

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Rocket Lab’s Electron Booster Launches Secret Reconnaissance Payload

Electron rocket lifts off on Jan. 31, 2020. (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast)

Rocket Lab successfully launched a payload on Friday from the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) from its launch complex on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.

The dedicated mission, named “Birds of a Feather,” was the first NRO mission ever launched outside of the United States. Rocket Lab is an American company based in California.

NRO awarded Rocket Lab the contract under its Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket (RASR) program. RASR is focused on allowing the reconnaissance agency to explore the use of new launch vehicles on a streamlined, commercial basis.

New Zealand as seen from an Electron rocket. (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast)

Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck tweeted that the first stage made it through the atmosphere and down to the ocean for the second time. The company will attempt to use a helicopter to catch a stage during descent on a future flight.

It was Rocket Lab’s first launch of 2020 and the 10th success in 11 launch attempts of Electron. The booster first flew in May 2017.

Next Cygnus Spacecraft Named After First African American Astronaut

Robert Henry Lawrence Jr.

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (Northrop Grumman PR) — Northrop Grumman will launch the NG-13 mission on February 9, 2020. The company’s Antares rocket will launch the Cygnus spacecraft from Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia with the 5-minute launch window opening at 5:39 p.m. ET.

Northrop Grumman is proud to name the NG-13 Cygnus spacecraft after former astronaut Robert Henry Lawrence Jr. It is the company’s tradition to name each Cygnus after an individual who has played a pivotal role in human spaceflight. Major Lawrence was selected in honor of his prominent place in history as the first African-American astronaut.

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Rocket Lab to Launch NRO Mission on Jan. 31

Electron lifts off with U.S. Air Force satellites. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., 20 January 2020 (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab, the global leader in small satellite launch, has announced today that it will launch a dedicated mission for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The launch window is scheduled to open on 31 January NZDT and the mission, called ‘Birds of a Feather,’ will lift off from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1.

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