This week saw the delayed launch of a Delta IV Heavy rocket with its classified National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) payload lift off successfully. Also, a new target date for the final flight of the space shuttle Discovery was announced.
Successful launch of Delta IV Heavy
United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully launched a Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Nov. 21 at 5:58 p.m. EDT. This was the attempt to launch a classified surveillance satellite into space atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket. Coming alive right on time the enormous rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC 37).
As almost to underscore the secretive nature of the mission the powerful rocket’s fiery exhaust was only visible for a short while before disappearing into thick clouds. However, long after it was out of view – it made its journey known through its roar. The vibration was so visceral that vehicles and windows of buildings in the immediate area began to rattle with the raw power that was unleashed.
U.S. Air Force’ meteorologists predicted a 90 percent chance of acceptable weather for the launch, with only a tiny chance that winds could exceed the 20-knot limit. Winds were not an issue however and by all accounts the vehicle performed flawlessly. The first launch attempt of the classified National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellite was scrubbed Friday during fueling of the Delta IV.
NASA reschedules Discovery’s final Flight
NASA mission managers have rescheduled a press conference that was to be held on Monday, Nov. 22. The press conference was to discuss the problems facing the next space shuttle mission, STS-133, which was delayed earler this month. NASA managers decided to push the date back further after they realized they needed more time to evaluate the situation before proceeding toward the launch of the space shuttle Discovery – now scheduled to take place no-earlier-than Dec. 3 at approximately 2:52 a.m. EST.
NASA officials will provide an update regarding the status of repairs to the numerous problems with the shuttle’s external tank (ET). In so doing they will review issues that have plagued the Et this mission, including hydrogen leaks from the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate (GUCP) as well as cracks on the tops of two, 21-foot-long support beams, called stringers, located on the outside of the ET in an area known as the intertank.
The next launch window for space shuttle Discovery and six NASA astronauts will open on Nov. 30 and extends until Dec. 6. Whether the shuttle will be able to launch in this window has been placed in doubt as technicians are finding numerous cracks on the ET and the type of repairs needed have never been attempted at the launch pad. It still remains to be seen if this is feasible.