Ground sensors leave rockets stuck on Earth
by Douglas Messier
WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. — A Northrop Grumman rocket carrying supplies for astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) failed to get off the launch pad in Virginia on Thursday evening, marking the third scrubbed American launch in less than 24 hours.
A computer called an automatic halt to the launch of the Antares booster at 2 minutes 40 seconds before the planned liftoff at 9:43 p.m. EDT. The rocket is carrying a Cygnus resupply ship with cargo bound for ISS.
Northrop Grumman tweeted that a problem with ground support equipment caused a hold in the countdown. Controllers were at the very end of a five-minute launch window at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Va.
Northrop Grumman said it would attempt a 24-hour turn around for another launch attempt on Friday at 9:16 p.m. EDT. If the launch attempt is made, NASA will begin live coverage at www.nasa.gov beginning at 8:45 p.m. EDT.
Earlier in the day, SpaceX scrubbed the launch of 60 Starlink broadband satellites from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida due to an “out of family ground system sensor reading.” The countdown was halted 18 seconds before the planned 9:17 a.m. EDT liftoff.
SpaceX might attempt to launch the satellites on Saturday. An official weather forecast has been issued for a launch, but the company has not confirmed the date and time.
SpaceX does have a launch planned for Friday evening. A Falcon 9 booster is scheduled to launch the GPS III SV-04 navigation satellite from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The 15-minute launch window opens at 9:43 p.m. EDT, or 01:43 UTC on October 3. SpaceX will begin its launch webcast here starting about 15 minutes before liftoff.
Less than 10 hours before the SpaceX scrub, the launch of an United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket was halted 7 seconds before liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station after a sensor detected a fault.
The massive rocket is carrying the NROL-44 spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. ULA has not set a new launch date.
It was the sixth scrub or launch delay for the ULA booster since Aug. 27. Five of the delays occurred due to technical problems, the other resulted from weather.