ULA scrubs national security satellite liftoff from Cape Canaveral

ULA targeting Sunday, Nov. 8; SpaceX Falcon launch Thursday at 6:24 p.m.

Atlas V and the NROL-101 payload at Launch Complex 41. (Image: ULA) (WKMG 2020)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – United Launch Alliance was preparing to launch one of its Atlas V workhorse rockets from Cape Canaveral Wednesday, offering a nice distraction from the ongoing ballot counting country-wide, however, due to a technical issue the liftoff has been delayed.

ULA was slated to send up a secret spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office on Election Day but the mission was delayed 24 hours. Then on Wednesday about an hour before the two-hour launch window a technical issue was dedicated on the launchpad delaying the countdown. A team was sent to the pad to troubleshoot, and the efforts were ongoing when Mission Director Col Chad Davis called off the launch attempt.

ULA is targeting Sunday, Nov. 8 at 5:36 p.m. for another attempt.

The Atlas V rocket made the 1,800-feet journey to the launch pad for the second time Tuesday afternoon from the hangar at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Inside the rocket’s nose cone is the NROL-101 satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. The NRO builds and maintains U.S. intelligence satellites providing support to the intelligence community and the U.S. Department of Defense.

[RELATED: When is the next rocket launch from Florida?]

When it does happen, this will be the first launch for ULA since July. Another NRO satellite launch was delayed a handful of times in August, September and October before ULA announced the launch was delayed indefinitely.

In July, another Atlas V was used to send NASA’s new Mars rover on its journey to the Red Planet.

SpaceX is also planning a launch this week. The company is slated to launch a GPS satellite for the U.S. Space Force and Air Force on Thursday. The 15-minute launch window opens at 6:24 p.m. The Falcon 9 will liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Weather officers are giving the liftoff a 60% chance for good launch weather.

The SpaceX launch for the military is particularly important because the very next launch after will be Crew-1, on Nov. 14 with a human payload of three NASA and one Japanese astronauts inside the company’s Dragon spaceship. Recently, SpaceX swapped several rocket engines on both Falcon 9s after engineers found a red-lacquer like substance blocking a relief valve. NASA leaders have said they would like SpaceX to launch the GPS satellite before Crew-1.

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