Delta Heavy Launch Aborted In Final Seconds


United Launch Alliance says it will be at least a week before it can try again to launch an expensive spy satellite from Cape Canaveral. Its Delta IV Heavy rocket automatically aborted starting its engines just three seconds before liftoff early Saturday. The launch had already been postponed from its Aug. 27 planned liftoff. In the Saturday attempt, the engines briefly ignited but were shut down when a fault was detected. It would appear the expensive payload and its transportation to space can still be used.

“The bird is in good health,” ULA CEO Tory Bruno said in a tweet. “This was an automatic abort during the ignition sequence. Cause appears to have been in the ground system. System functioned as intended to protect the vehicle and payload.” ULA is a partnership between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The payload is designated as the NROL-44 satellite and is highly classified but it must be a big one. The Delta IV Heavy is only used for the heaviest payloads and can take 62,540 pounds to low Earth orbit or 30,440 pounds to geostationary orbit.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. A classic example of making a standard callout because the associated event is expected to have occurred rather than that the event has actually been observed to have occurred. Note to all pilots and launch announcers alike.

    • I will cut him some slack for the one second he had to observe and consider what he was saying while he was already speaking. Seems like he recovered and made the correction pretty quickly.

  2. Interesting that ULA had another launch problem around the same time that SpaceX had a successful launch of three satellites into polar orbits. They also had a successful return of the first stage booster – its fourth launch and landing.