ULA has now delayed indefinitely the launch of a military reconnaissance satellite using its Delta 4 Heavy rocket because of ongoing issues in the swing arms on the launch tower.
According to ULA’s CEO, Tory Bruno:
..ULA was “working through an issue with pad hydraulics” associated with the swing arm retraction system at the Delta 4 launch pad. Three swing arms feeding propellants and conditioned air to the rocket and its satellite payload are designed to retract as the Delta 4-Heavy lifts off.
“Fixing is always easy,” Bruno tweeted. “Making sure something stays fixed takes more work and lots of discipline.”
This launch has been delayed numerous times in the past two months, almost always because of a variety of different problems, most related to the launchpad, with two scrubs occurring as launch aborts at launch. As the article at the link correctly notes,
The repeated problems with different parts of the Delta 4-Heavy’s launch pad have raised questions about aging infrastructure at pad 37B, which was originally built to support Saturn rocket launches in the 1960s, then mothballed until Boeing took over the facility in the 1990s for the Delta 4 program.
Boeing built the towering mobile gantry for the Delta 4 rocket, along with a then-new fixed umbilical tower with huge swing arms designed to pull away from the launcher as it climbs away from the pad.
The age of the launchpad, combined with the expensive complexity of the Delta 4 Heavy that results in very few launches spread over many years, cannot result in reliable operations.
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