ULA has identified the cause of the launch abort of its Delta 4 Heavy rocket on August 29th, and has now aiming for a launch no earlier than September 18th.
A torn diaphragm in one of three pressure regulators at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 37 caused the computer-controlled scrub just three seconds before liftoff on Aug. 29, ULA CEO Tory Bruno said via Twitter on Wednesday. The engines briefly lit on fire, but the rocket remained firmly on the pad.
“Torn diaphragm (in the regulator), which can occur over time,” Bruno said. “Verifying the condition of the other two regulators. We will replace or rebuild as needed, re-test, and then resume towards launch.” [emphasis mine]
The highlighted words illustrate the less than stellar old space rocket design that the Delta 4 Heavy represents, and that ULA is perpetuating as long as it uses this rocket. Rather than redesign so that these torn diaphragms will no longer be a problem, it appears they will simply make sure this design is tested and works, for this launch. Thus, this issue has the possibility of reappearing in a future launch.
Wouldn’t it be better to upgrade and eliminate such a problem, for good, once it is identified? That appears to be SpaceX’s strategy, and the consequence is that their rockets and spacecraft get increasingly more reliable with time.
Anyway, if ULA’s schedule holds, it means there will be two launches at Cape Canaveral in less than 24 hours, as SpaceX is aiming for another Starlink launch the day earlier.
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