United Launch Alliance called off the planned launch of an Atlas 5 rocket Wednesday at Cape Canaveral to resolve a problem with valves at the launch pad, while a SpaceX team a mile-and-a-half to the south readied a Falcon 9 rocket for liftoff Thursday evening with a GPS navigation satellite for the U.S. military.
Ready for blastoff just after sunset Wednesday with a classified payload for the U.S. government’s spy satellite agency, a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket rolled out to its launch pad at Cape Canaveral late Tuesday afternoon after an unplanned trip back inside its integration building for repairs.
United Launch Alliance engineers have resolved the problem that triggered an abort of a planned Delta 4-Heavy rocket launch Sept. 30, but the company said Friday it is continuing to evaluate a concern with the launch pad swing arm retraction system at Cape Canaveral. ULA said the Delta 4-Heavy’s mission to launch a classified National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite will be postponed beyond next week.
NASA has selected 14 companies for contracts of more than $370 million to advance technology for human missions to the moon and Mars. Most of the money will support flight demonstrations by SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, and other companies that could lead to in-space refueling and propellant depots for reusable lunar landers and deep space transportation vehicles.
Christopher Ferguson, commander of the final space shuttle flight and now a Boeing executive, has stepped down as commander of the first piloted test flight of the company’s troubled CST-100 Starliner commercial spacecraft, he and Boeing announced Wednesday. He has been replaced by NASA astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore.