The launch of a Delta 4 rocket carrying a top-secret spy satellite has been delayed again, moving the next liftoff attempt to Tuesday afternoon at the earliest, officials said Sunday afternoon.
The team had been aiming for launch at 4:04 p.m. today from Space Launch Complex-6 on south Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The new targeted launch time for the United Launch Alliance rocket is 4:12 p.m. Tuesday, officials said.
After meeting Sunday, mission managers decided to postpone liftoff at least another day.
“The team is continuing to review data from an observation on the upper stage engine and requires additional time to complete its final assessment prior to launch,” United Launch Alliance officials said Sunday.
This mission, carrying a National Reconnaissance Office satellite, initially was scheduled for launch Thursday.
But an upper-stage engine issue observed during final prelaunch chores caused concerns and the need for further review.
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During closeout operations, crews performed an operation that resulted in some movement of the engine nozzle extension system, according to ULA spokeswoman Jessica Rye.
“The system is being thoroughly inspected to ensure that this movement did not have any detrimental effects,” Rye said.
Crews completed their assessment Friday, but additional analysis needed to be completed before mission managers conduct their final review for launch, according to Rye.
With a multimillion-dollar, critical national security payload on board and just one shot for successful launch, mission managers want to be sure all concerns are resolved before the countdown hits zero.
The outlook for weather Tuesday has improved slightly, although a 60 percent likelihood remains that weather will force a delay. Winds continue to be the primary worry.
“High pressure will remain in place over Vandenberg on Tuesday and winds are expected to remain low and pick up slightly in the afternoon.”, the launch weather office said in the forecast. “The marine layer will be rolling in by the evening hours.”
This rocket is the medium-sized version of the Delta 4 family of rockets. It will be the fourth to fly from Vandenberg, and the 19th overall from Vandenberg and its East Coast counterpart at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.