Final RS-68A Engine for Delta IV Heavy Completes Hot-fire Acceptance Test

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RS-68A rocket engine successfully completed its final acceptance test April 12, 2021, on the B-1 test stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The RS-68A powers the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket to send critical spacecraft into orbit. (Credit: NASA Stennis)

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Today (April 12), the world’s most powerful hydrogen-fueled rocket engine built by Aerojet Rocketdyne, the RS-68A, completed its final hot-fire acceptance test for use on the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle on the B-1 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

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SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches NRO Payload in Record 26th Successful Flight of Year

Falcon 9 launches the NROL-108 mission on Dec. 19, 2020. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — On Saturday, December 19 at 9:00 a.m. EST, Falcon 9 launched the NROL-108 mission from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, completing SpaceX’s 26th and final mission of 2020.

Falcon 9’s first stage booster previously supported launch of SpaceX’s 19th and 20th cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station, a Starlink mission, and the SAOCOM 1B mission.

Following stage separation, SpaceX landed Falcon 9’s first stage on Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida – the 70th landing for SpaceX.

Editor’s Note: SpaceX’s 26 launches is a new record for Elon Musk’s company in a calendar year. It was America’s 44th and final orbital launch attempt of the year. That is the highest number in more than 50 years.

Overall, there have been 110 launch attempts with 10 failures worldwide. Two more launches — Long March 8 from China, and a Soyuz-2 from Kourou — are scheduled before the end of the year. It’s possible China or Russia could conduct additional launches; these countries don’t always announce flights very far in advance.

HawkEye 360 Supporting RF GEOINT Pilot Program for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

Credit: HawkEye 360

Pilot program explores how commercial RF geospatial data can augment NGA and United States combatant command intelligence activities

Herndon, Virginia (December 16, 2020) — HawkEye 360 Inc. is supporting a commercial radio frequency (RF) geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) pilot program for the United States National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), using its constellation of formation flying satellites to deliver RF data and analytics to the agency and combatant commands so analysts can explore how this new source of commercial data can augment intelligence activities.

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ULA Successfully Launches NROL-44 Mission to Support National Security

A Delta IV Heavy launches the NROL-44 satellite. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE BASE, Fla., (Dec. 11, 2020) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the NROL-44 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-37 on Dec. 10 at 8:09 p.m. EST. To date ULA has launched 142 times with 100 percent mission success.

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Atlas V Launch Rescheduled for Wednesday Evening

An Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-6 mission for the U.S Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at 4:18 p.m. EDT on March 26, 2020. (Credit: United Launch Alliance)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (ULA PR) — Everything is progressing towards the ULA Atlas V launch carrying the NROL-101 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office.

The mission is set to lift off on Wednesday, Nov. 4 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch time is 5:54 p.m. EST.

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ULA’s Atlas V to Launch Reconnaissance Satellite on Tuesday

An Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-6 mission for the U.S Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at 4:18 p.m. EDT on March 26, 2020. (Credit: United Launch Alliance)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (ULA PR) — Everything is progressing towards the ULA Atlas V launch carrying the NROL-101 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office.

The mission is set to lift off on Tue., Nov. 3 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch time is 5:58 p.m. EST.

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ULA Atlas V Launch Scheduled for Nov. 3

Launch of the ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter mission to study the Sun from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Feb. 9, 2020. (Credits: Jared Frankle, NASA Solar Orbiter Social Participant)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., Oct. 26, 2020 (ULA PR) – The launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V carrying the NROL-101 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office is scheduled for Nov. 3, 2020.

The launch period is 5:30 to 8:10 p.m. EST. The Atlas V will launch from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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Sensors Result in Delta IV Heavy, Falcon 9 Launch Scrubs

Launches of Delta IV Heavy and Falcon 9 rockets from Florida’s Space Coast were aborted with only seconds to go before liftoff less than 10 hours apart.

The countdown of an United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy was stopped 7 seconds before a planned 11:54 p.m. launch on Wednesday after a sensor detected an unidentified fault. Crews safed the vehicle on its launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

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.

Less than 10 hours later, an “out of family” ground sensor aborted the countdown of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center only 18 seconds before a planned 9:17 a.m. EDT liftoff.

The booster is carrying 60 spacecraft for the company’s Starlink satellite broadband constellation. SpaceX has not announced a new launch date for the flight.

Delta IV Heavy Performs Spectacularly Unnerving Nighttime Abort

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. — A Delta IV Heavy booster carrying a classified reconnaissance satellite experienced a nail biting abort early Saturday morning as flames licked at the bottom of the giant rocket.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) said the rocket’s automated control system aborted the launch at T minus 3 seconds. The engines on the Delta IV Heavy’s first-stage core and its two side boosters never ignited, the company said.

The abort occurred after the Delta IV Heavy’s radially outward firing initiators (ROFI) had begun firing as planned at T minus 15 seconds. The firing engulfed the bottom of the booster in flames, which is a normal occurrence.

Engineers safed the vehicle and began unloading propellant as a scrub was called. The cause of the abort is unclear, but ULA said it would take a minimum of seven days to recycle the launch.

The rocket’s payload was the NROL-44 satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. The payload is believed to be a signal intelligence gathering satellite.

It’s not known whether the abort will impact SpaceX’s plans to launch two Falcon 9 rockets on Sunday from a nearby pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Pad 39A at the adjoining Kennedy Space Center.

A Whole Bunch of Launches Scheduled — Again

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018, from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Parker Solar Probe is humanity’s first-ever mission into a part of the Sun’s atmosphere called the corona. Here it will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. (Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Bored beyond tears due to the lockdown? Got nothing to do and nowhere to go? Only reruns on the tube?

Stay home, grab some beers, and fire up that computer. There’s a whole bunch of launches on the schedule over the next four days. ULA, Rocket Lab, SpaceX, Astra and Arianespace are all back in action with six launches from three countries.

SpaceX will attempt two launches on the same day from Florida on Sunday. The company might also attempt a hop of its sixth Starship prototype this weekend. The timing for that is uncertain.

Remember: launches are subject to change without notice. And wagering is strictly prohibited.

August 29

UPDATE: The booster performed an abort at T minus 3 seconds. United Launch Alliance says it will be at least seven days before they can attempt another launch.

Launch Vehicle: Delta IV Heavy
Payload: NROL-44
Launch Time: 2:04 a.m. EDT (0612 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.ulalaunch.com/

An United Launch Alliance Delta 4-Heavy rocket will launch the classified NROL-44 satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.

August 29/30

UPDATE: New Electron launch date is Aug. 30/31 with the same launch window.

Launch Vehicle: Electron
Mission Name: “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Optical”
Payload: Sequoia
Launch Window: 11:05 p.m.-3:05 a.m. EDT on Aug. 29/30 (0305-0705 GMT on Aug. 29)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Webcast: www.rocketlabusa.com

Rocket Lab is back in action after the failure of its 13th launch on July 4. Electron will carry the Capella Space’s Sequoia synthetic aperture radar satellite on a dedicated mission.

August 30

UPDATE: Launch scrubbed due to weather. Next possible launch window is on Tuesday.

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Starlink 11
Launch Time: 10:08 a.m. EDT (1408 GMT)
Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com

The 12th batch of approximately 60 satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink broadband constellation.

August 30

UPDATE: Launch successful.

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: SAOCOM 1B
Launch Time: 7:19 p.m. EDT (2319 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com

SpaceX will launch the SAOCOM 1B environmental satellite for Argentina’s space agency, CONAE. The mission includes the first polar orbit launch from Cape Canaveral since February 1969. The Falcon 9 first stage will attempt a relatively rare return to land instead of touching down on an offshore drone ship.

August 30/31

UPDATE: Astra has postponed the launch to Sept. 10 from 10 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. EDT (7-9:30 p.m. PDT)

Launch Vehicle: Rocket 3.1
Payloads: None
Launch Window: 10:00 p.m.-12:30 a.m. EDT on Aug. 30/31 (0200-0430 GMT on Aug. 31
Launch Site: Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska
Webcast: none

Astra Space will attempt the first orbital flight of its inexpensive launch vehicle.

September 1/2

Launch Vehicle: Vega
Mission Name: Small Spacecraft Mission Service Proof of Concept (SSMS POF)
Payloads: 53 small satellites
Launch Time: 9:51:10 p.m. EDT on Sept. 1 (0151:10 GMT on Sept. 2)
Launch Site: Kourou, French Guiana
Webcast: Arianespace YouTube channel

Arianespace will attempt the first rideshare mission of its Vega booster. The window for the long delayed launch extends until Sept. 4.

Four Launches in Four Days Scheduled for Coming Week

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018, from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. (Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Are you ready for some launches?

Scattered shouts

I SAID, ARE YOU READY FOR SOME LAUNCHES?!

Crowd goes crazy

That’s better. As Doc Brown once said, starting Thursday you’re going see some serious s***.

August 27

Launch Vehicle: Delta 4 Heavy
Payload: NROL-44
Launch Time: 2:12 a.m. EDT (0612 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.ulalaunch.com/

An United Launch Alliance Delta 4-Heavy rocket will launch the classified NROL-44 satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.

August 28

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: SAOCOM 1B
Launch Time: 7:19 p.m. EDT (2319 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com

SpaceX will launch the SAOCOM 1B environmental satellite for Argentina’s space agency, CONAE. The mission includes the first polar orbit launch from Cape Canaveral since February 1969. The Falcon 9 first stage will attempt a relatively rare return to land instead of touching down on an offshore drone ship.

August 28/29

Launch Vehicle: Electron
Mission Name: “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Optical”
Payload: Sequoia
Launch Time: 11:05 p.m. EDT on Aug. 28/29 (0305 GMT on Aug. 29)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Webcast: www.rocketlabusa.com

Rocket Lab is back in action after the failure of its 13th launch on July 4. Electron will carry the Capella Space’s Sequoia synthetic aperture radar satellite on a dedicated mission.

August 30

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Starlink 11
Launch Time: 10:08 a.m. EDT (1408 GMT)
Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com

The 12th batch of approximately 60 satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink broadband constellation.

Note: Launches subject to change. Absolutely no wagering.

Space Force Awards National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Contracts to SpaceX & ULA

WASHINGTON, (AFNS) — The Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), in partnership with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), competitively awarded two Firm-Fixed-Price, Indefinite Delivery Requirement contracts for National Security Space launch services today to ULA and SpaceX.

“This is a groundbreaking day, culminating years of strategic planning and effort by the Department of the Air Force, NRO, and our launch service industry partners,” said Dr. William Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. “Maintaining a competitive launch market, servicing both government and commercial customers, is how we encourage continued innovation on assured access to space. Today’s awards mark a new epoch of space launch that will finally transition the Department off Russian RD-180 engines.”

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Minotaur IV Launches Classified Military Mission

A Northrop Grumman Minotaur IV successfully launched four National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) payloads on Wednesday morning.

The four-stage, solid-fuel booster was launched at 9:46 a.m. EDT from Pad 0B at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Va.

The NROL-129 mission was the NRO’s 54th launch since 1996 and its first launch on a Minotaur IV. A Minotaur rocket last flew from Wallops in 2013.

Minotaur IV’s first three stages use solid rocket motors from decommissioned Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missiles. The commercial Orion 38 rocket motor is used as the fourth stage.

Minotaur IV is capable of launching payloads up to 1,730 kg (3,814 lb.) to low Earth orbit; The booster made its maiden flight in April 2010.

Minotaur Rocket Launching Wednesday Morning from NASA Wallops

A Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifts off from at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — A Minotaur IV rocket carrying a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is scheduled for launch July 15, 2020, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The launch vehicle, built and operated by Northrop Grumman, is scheduled for liftoff from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s (MARS) Pad 0B. The window opens at 9 a.m.

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Rocket Lab Wins Contract for Back-to-Back NRO Launches

Electron lifts off from the Mahia Peninsula on its 12th flight on June 13, 2020. (Credit; Rocket Lab webcast)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab, the Long Beach headquartered global leader in small satellite launch, has signed a launch agreement with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) for two back-to-back dedicated small satellite missions aboard an Electron launch vehicle. 

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