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After lengthy delays, ULA’s most powerful rocket poised to launch classified spy satellite

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After many weeks of delays due to faulty equipment and bad weather, the United Launch Alliance is set to launch its most powerful rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, lofting a classified spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. The mission is finally ready to fly a full month after the rocket’s first launch attempt, which was aborted just three seconds before liftoff.

The rocket going up on ULA’s mission is the Delta IV Heavy, a giant vehicle that consists of three rocket cores strapped together to provide extra thrust. It’s one of the most powerful rockets in the world, though it falls short of the power packed into SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy. ULA doesn’t fly the Delta IV Heavy very often, as it’s an expensive vehicle to make, but the company uses the rocket for large, heavy satellites headed to super-high orbits.

The rocket’s payload is NROL-44, and like all NRO missions, its purpose is cloaked in secrecy. The office simply notes that “NROL-44 supports NRO’s overall national security mission to provide intelligence data to the United States’ senior policymakers, the Intelligence Community and Department of Defense.” ULA has already launched 29 missions for the NRO, many of which have required the Delta IV Heavy.

ULA was all set to launch NROL-44 in the wee hours of the morning on August 29th. ULA counted all the way down to just seconds before liftoff, with the Delta IV Heavy’s main engines briefly igniting. But the engines quickly shut off and the rocket remained fixed on the launchpad. ULA later learned a piece of ground equipment had failed, prompting the abort. It took the company a few weeks to replace the faulty equipment.

Further problems with equipment on the launchpad pushed back the launch time again, but ULA is hoping to get off

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United Launch Alliance postpones spy satellite launch again

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ORLANDO, Fla., Sept. 28 (UPI) — United Launch Alliance postponed launch of a spy satellite for the U.S. Department of Defense on Monday due to lightning and stormy weather in the area near Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The company’s powerful Delta IV Heavy rocket had been scheduled to carry the satellite aloft at 12:02 a.m. EDT Tuesday.

ULA set a new new launch time for 11:58 p.m. EDT Tuesday. A significant risk exists, however, that storms could postpone liftoff again, according to U.S. Space Force meteorologists.

The launch has been delayed by various woes besides Mother Nature.

On Aug. 29, controllers halted a launch three seconds before liftoff. The company blamed a faulty helium pressure regulator for that abort. The mission was further delayed due to a problem with a retractable support arm at the launch site, according to ULA.

The mission is to utilize a Delta Heavy rocket, which is a triple-core launcher that produces a collective 2.2 million pounds of thrust. That compares to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, the most powerful of today’s rockets, with 3.4 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.

The flight, called NROL-44, is to be the 12th launch of a Delta IV Heavy, which first was used in 2004, the company said.

The National Reconnaissance Office, the agency that oversees the launch, is part of the Defense Department. According to its mission statement, it is responsible for developing, launching and operating America’s reconnaissance satellites, along with data-processing facilities.

That data is used by the National Security Agency and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to produce photos, maps, reports and other tools for the president, Congress, national policymakers, warfighters and others.

The Delta IV Heavy, the fourth version of the workhorse Delta rocket, was developed to launch for the reconnaissance office, U.S. Space Force and