A day after commercial satellite images revealed a smoke plume over an Iranian launch pad, President Trump tweeted a remarkably high-resolution aerial photograph of the remote satellite launch facility Friday — apparently from a classified satellite or airborne drone — and denied U.S. involvement in the accident.
Northrop Grumman is gearing up for up to four launches this year at Wallops Island, Virginia, including two launches with Cygnus cargo ships heading to the International Space Station, and a pair of Minotaur rocket flights carrying classified payloads into orbit for the U.S. government’s spy satellite agency.
United Launch Alliance’s Delta 4-Heavy rocket lifted off at 11:10 a.m. PST (2:10 p.m. EST; 1910 GMT) Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, after a month-long delay to troubleshoot a hydrogen leak in one of its boosters. The heavy-lifter was on a mission to send a U.S. government spy satellite into orbit.
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.