ULA successfully launches U.S. spy satellite

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Capitalism in space: Using its Delta-4 Heavy rocket, the most powerful in its rocket family, ULA today successfully placed a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) spy satellite into orbit.

It was also revealed in this article that ULA plans a total of seven launches in 2019, including today’s launch, the fewest in a year since ULA was formed in 2007 from a partnership of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

The standings in the 2019 launch race:

1 China
1 SpaceX
1 Japan

The U.S. leads in the national standings 2 to 1 over China.



  • Kirk

    Remember back on 18-19 December when there were five launches planned in less than 24 hours?

    * 09:11 EST (14:11Z) SpaceX Falcon 9 with GPS III from the Cape
    * 09:30 EST (14:30Z) Blue Origin New Shepard uncrewed suborbital launch from Texas
    * 11:37 EST (16:37Z) Arianespace Soyuz with CSO 1 French imagery satellite from French Guiana
    * 20:57 EST (01:57Z) ULA Delta IV Heavy with a US spy satellite from Vandenberg
    * 05:40 EST (10:40Z) ISRO GSLV with an Indian military geo comms satellite from Sriharikota

    … and only the GSLV launched on time.

    * The Soyuz was delayed one day due to high altitude winds.
    * The Falcon9 was scrubbed at T-0:07:01 due to a temperature sensor problem, then again two days later for weather, then yet again two days later for high upper level winds, and finally launched five days after the initial attempt.
    * The Delta IV Heavy initial launch attempt was on 7 December but was scrubbed due to problems with the holdfire circuitry. That was repaired and they tried again two days later, but scrubbed at T-0:00:07.5, moments before engine start, due to detection of high hydrogen levels on the pad suggesting a leak. They first thought it was due to a bad sensor and retargeted 18 December, but that was scrubbed due to high winds. Their 19 December attempt was scrubbed 12 minutes before launch when they again detected the hydrogen leak. That led to a much longer stand down and the eventual determination of a faulty valve which was only leaking at cryogenic temperatures. With a new valve in place yesterday’s launch finally went off without a hitch.
    * The New Shepard Flight 10 was scrubbed about an hour before launch due to ground infrastructure issues. While repairing those problems they discovered additional systems which needed to be addressed so they put off the launch until the new year. As of two days ago, they were targeting a launch tomorrow, 21 January. The NOTAM restrictions are for 08:30 – 15:00 EST, and they have not yet announced a launch time.

  • Kirk

    Blue Origin delayed their New Shepard Flight 10 until Wednesday due to high winds in the area.

  • Chipotle

    Ars Technica has some great photos of the ULA launch. I had noticed apparent toasting of the boosters in previous photos, but wasn’t confident about what was going on. Not sure how to provide a link, so in two pieces: arstechnica.com

  • Kirk

    Blue Origin New Shepard Flight 10 is on for today (Wednesday, Jan. 23) originally scheduled for 09:50 EST / 08:50 local (CST) / 06:50 PST, but looks to be running about 8 minutes late.

    Live webcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1E-3Bk2wpxo

  • Kirk

    … and a successful flight by New Shepard. Unofficial statistics:
    * Mission Launch Time: 09:05 a.m. CST
    * Max Ascent Velocity: 2,226 mph / 3,582 km/h
    * Crew Capsule Apogee: 350,775 ft / 66 miles / 107 km
    * Mission Elapsed Time: 10:15
    (I also noted a max booster descent velocity of 2,603 mph at T+6:13)

    That wraps up the “five in one day” from five weeks ago.

    Best video was perhaps the “up the pipe” shot of the booster coming in for a landing, which unfortunately cut away to other cameras about 15 seconds before landing.

    T+0:00 happens at 42:32 in the video linked above.

  • Kirk: You might have wanted to post this comment in my post on the New Shepard flight.

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