Saturday, November 14, 2009

Live At The Cape: Atlas Launch Scrubbed

The launch of an Atlas V rocket and a commercial communications satellite has been scrubbed as a result of problems with a signal relayer that routes commands to small detonators used to separate stages of the rocket in flight.

The launch was not immediately rescheduled.

The countdown to launch had been proceeding without problems and the weather forecast called for a 90 percent chance of favorable weather.

But a little less than 30 minutes before a planned 12:48 p.m. launch, engineers reported that the power to the signal relayer turned off and on without being commanded to do so. The power-cycle was short-lived: 50 milliseconds. However, the Ordnance Remote Control Assembly, known by the acronym ORCA, plays a critical role in flight.

The assembly sends signals to detonate explosives that are used to separate the Atlas and Centaur stages of the rocket as well as the Centaur stage and the rocket's payload, in this case, a multimillion-dollar Intelsat commercial communications spacecraft.

Launch managers are trying to determine when they might make another attempt. The earliest possibility is early Sunday. But it's unclear whether the problem can be resolved in time to support a launch attempt then.

The delay could push the shuttle launch from Monday to Tuesday -- if United Launch Alliance is ready to make another attempt Sunday, that would be the case. But if the problem cannot be resolved in time to make another attempt early Sunday, the shuttle would launch on Monday and the Atlas would be a subsequent date on the Eastern Range.

The rocket now is being de-tanked -- propellants are being drained from it.

We'll update the blog when more news is available.


Anonymous said...

Wow. As I understand, the shuttle can't launch until this Atlas mission is completed.

Any confirmations on this?

Todd Halvorson said...

The Atlas won't be ready to make another attempt on its back-up day, which is Sunday, so the shuttle will remain scheduled for Monday,....

Anonymous said...

I read the Atlas will have to be after the Shuttle.