The first of up to seven missions planned on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas and Delta rocket fleets this year is scheduled for Saturday from California’s Central Coast, when a Delta 4-Heavy is set for blastoff on a spy satellite delivery flight delayed a month to troubleshoot a hydrogen fuel leak in a booster.
After unusual concentrations of hydrogen around the rocket foiled a launch attempt Dec. 19, United Launch Alliance said Friday that the company’s powerful Delta 4-Heavy launcher and a U.S. government spy satellite will remain grounded in California until at least Jan. 6 as engineers troubleshoot a small fuel leak.
United Launch Alliance called off the planned liftoff of a Delta 4-Heavy rocket and a classified National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Wednesday after indications of elevated hydrogen concentrations around one of the launcher’s main engines. Three previous launch attempts were scrubbed by technical concerns and bad weather.
Space missions dispatched into the solar system often have journeys lasting years before reaching a scientific payoff, but NASA’s Parker Solar Probe launched last weekend on a speedy departure from planet Earth is already getting ready to sweep closer to the sun than any spacecraft in history during a flyby later this year.