Delta IV Heavy on the launchpad
The Delta IV Heavy rocket on the launch pad. Courtesy United Launch Alliance

Another attempted launch of a spy satellite rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base near Santa Barbara was scrubbed Thursday, and mission managers said the launch won’t happen until at least Dec. 30.

It was the fifth time United Launch Alliance scrubbed the planned launch of the reconnaissance satellite, again frustrating Southern California residents hoping to enjoy the aerial light spectacular that evening launches from Vandenberg create.

The launch had been scheduled for 5:31 p.m., but ULA announced shortly after 10 a.m. that the launch was being postponed. A launch attempt on Wednesday night was scrubbed just 10 minutes before liftoff due to a hydrogen leak on the Delta IV Heavy rocket, and it likely contributed to Thursday’s delay as well.

“The team is evaluating all the data, and we’ll update about a launch date when we can,” according to ULA.

On Tuesday night, a planned launch was scrubbed due to high winds. On Dec. 8, the launch was scrubbed just 7.5 seconds before its scheduled liftoff due to a technical glitch. An operational problem caused a delay in the launch one day prior to that.

Launches from Vandenberg, especially those carried out after sundown, typically create impressive aerial light shows over Southern California and the southwestern United States.

When it is eventually launched, the Delta IV Heavy rocket will be carrying a secretive satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.

“We are proud to launch this critical payload in support of our nation’s national security mission,” Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of government and commercial programs, said in a statement prior to the two delays. “As the nation’s premiere launch provider, the teams have worked diligently to ensure continued mission success, delivering our customer’s payloads to the precise orbits requested.”

According to the company, the Delta IV Heavy rocket includes three Rocketdyne liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engines that can produce a combined 2.1 million pounds of thrust.

ULA has carried out 27 launches for the National Reconnaissance Office over the past 12 years.

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.