BY SPACEFLIGHT NOW
Follow the countdown and launch of the Boeing Delta 4 rocket with the GOES-N weather observatory. Reload this page for the very latest on the mission.
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MONDAY'S LAUNCH ATTEMPT IS SCRUBBED PLAY
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PRE-LAUNCH NEWS CONFERENCE DIAL-UP | BROADBAND
SUNDAY, AUGUST 21, 2005
While one Delta 4 rocket remains bolted to its Florida launch pad awaiting better orbital conditions to deploy a U.S. weather observatory in a couple of months, Boeing crews are preparing to conduct a critical dress rehearsal for the first West Coast liftoff of the next-generation booster. Read our full story.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 16, 2005
Launch of the GOES-N spacecraft has been postponed indefinitely because the rocket's safety-destruct system batteries have reached their expiration date. Faced with the onset of the GOES orbital eclipse season and the length of time it would take to replace the batteries, mission managers are delaying the launch for an extended period. A new launch date hasn't been set but the eclipse period lasts through early October.
0017 GMT (8:17 p.m. EDT Tues.)
The launch team has just been instructed to begin performing the extended scrub turnaround procedures to back out of the countdown, safe the rocket and reopen pad 37B for access. So no launch attempt will be made tomorrow. When the next shot will come to launch GOES-N is not immediately clear.
2340 GMT (7:40 p.m. EDT)
After a smooth countdown at Cape Canaveral today, a series of last-minute technical snags delayed and then scrubbed the second attempt to launch Boeing's fifth Delta 4 rocket and the GOES-N weather satellite. When the next try could come is not clear.
The two-stage booster was fueled in beautiful Florida summertime weather for a 6:32 p.m. EDT blastoff. But a power issue with the rocket's safety-destruct system and a problem arming the second stage engine ordnance cropped up, forcing officials to delay liftoff to 7:06 p.m. EDT. That would be the final moment in the day's 34-minute launch window.
Technicians were able to resolve the glitches and clocks resumed ticking at 7:01 p.m. from the T-minus 5 minute mark. There would be no time to spare for dealing with any further problems. But that is exactly what happened when an alarm was triggered as the count passed T-minus 4 minutes, 30 seconds.
The alarm indicated the voltage reading from a battery supporting telemetry relay from the second stage dropped below normal levels, a company spokesman explained.
The launch team began safing the rocket and recycling the countdown for another attempt as early as tomorrow. But the launch crew already worked a long day Monday during the first count, which was scrubbed by unexpected readings from the rocket's fuel pressurization system. Whether three straight attempts will be made hasn't been firmed up.
Further complicating matters is the GOES-N spacecraft's orbital lighting constraints. The seasonal eclipse period is beginning and controllers wanted to get the satellite in space before now to ensure proper energy levels during the early phases of orbit raising, deployments of the solar array and magnetometer boom and initial checkouts.
But there isn't an exact deadline for launching the craft. Originally, officials said Sunday would be the last try only to extend that acceptable launch period to yesterday and today. The eclipse extends through October 8 or so.
"When people talk about the eclipse season it has to do with risk associated with getting the spacecraft on-orbit and fully deployed. Obviously, we want to be very conservative to ensure that we have that confidence. So there is not a cliff here come August 16," said Mark Spiwak, Boeing's NASA and NOAA programs manager at the GOES-N satellite manufacturer, told Spaceflight Now at the pre-launch news conference Monday.
"If we need further days in August, the joint team (Boeing, NASA and NOAA) will get together and decide what that mission profile is and how to proceed," he said.
"What this all has to do with is the sequence of deployments and making sure the spacecraft has sufficient power and can see the sun for the amount of time to make sure the batteries get charged (for) successful on-orbit operation."
2315 GMT (7:15 p.m. EDT)
The launch team has been told to prepare for another countdown tomorrow until told otherwise.
2312 GMT (7:12 p.m. EDT)
The other wildcard in selecting a new liftoff date is the GOES-N payload and its power levels. Officials had said launch needed to occur by last Sunday, but then extended the acceptable window to include attempts yesterday and today.
NOAA has said if launch didn't happen by today, GOES would have to wait until around October 8 for its next shot at space. The spacecraft cannot launch in this timeframe because it is an eclipse period, meaning the craft's electricity-producing solar panels would not have enough sunlight to sufficiently charge its batteries during critical orbit-raising maneuvers and post-launch checkout.
However, officials with spacecraft manufacturer Boeing pointed out that launching beyond today wouldn't represent "going over the cliff" and a risk assessment would need to be made if GOES faced further delays past today.
2306 GMT (7:06 p.m. EDT)
The "go" has been given to start draining the supercold propellants from the rocket after today's scrub.
2304 GMT (7:04 p.m. EDT)
The launch team is working through the routine procedures to safe the rocket and ground support equipment after today's count was halted by a red alarm. We're awaiting further word on what caused that alarm.
2302 GMT (7:02 p.m. EDT)
Whether another launch attempt is possible tomorrow is not clear. Boeing and NOAA spokespeople at the press site say tomorrow is not an option due to Range availability and crew rest factors.
2301 GMT (7:01 p.m. EDT)
The effectively scrubs today's countdown since liftoff was being targeted for the end of the available launch window.
2301 GMT (7:01 p.m. EDT)
The countdown has been stopped at T-minus 4 minutes, 22 seconds due to a red alarm in the control center.
2301 GMT (7:01 p.m. EDT)
2301 GMT (7:01 p.m. EDT)
T-minus 4 minutes, 30 seconds. The systems of the first and second stages of the Delta 4 rocket have switched from ground-fed power to internal batteries for launch.
2301 GMT (7:01 p.m. EDT)
T-minus 5 minutes and counting! The final phase of today's countdown has commenced for launch of Boeing's Delta 4 rocket carrying the GOES-N weather observatory. Liftoff is set to occur at 7:06 p.m. EDT (2306 GMT) from pad 37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
2300 GMT (7:00 p.m. EDT)
The countdown will resume in one minute. Launch of the Delta 4 rocket is just six minutes away from Cape Canaveral.
2259 GMT (6:59 p.m. EDT)
Range is GO! All of the issues have been resolved. Liftoff is set for 7:06 p.m.!
2259 GMT (6:59 p.m. EDT)
The countdown must resume in two minutes for launch today.
2258 GMT (6:58 p.m. EDT)
The launch pad swing arm retraction system pins are being pulled. The three arms will be rotated away from the Delta 4 rocket at liftoff.
2257 GMT (6:57 p.m. EDT)
The pre-launch poll is complete. Everyone was "go" for launch except for the Range officer since the safety system problem is still not resolved.
2256 GMT (6:56 p.m. EDT)
A readiness poll of the launch team is beginning.
2255 GMT (6:55 p.m. EDT)
The second stage engine ordnance arming problem has been resolved.
The rocket's flight termination system command receiver decoder power issue remains a constraint for launch, however. Teams are still working that problem.
2253 GMT (6:53 p.m. EDT)
Launch weather officer Joel Tumbiolo has confirmed to Boeing mission director Rich Murphy that weather conditions remain "go" for liftoff.
2251 GMT (6:51 p.m. EDT)
Now 15 minutes from launch time. The payload team reports the GOES-N spacecraft atop the Delta 4 has switch from ground-fed power to its internal batteries for launch.
2249 GMT (6:49 p.m. EDT)
Engineers are still working through the issues in hopes of getting the Delta 4 rocket launched at 7:06 p.m. EDT to deploy the GOES-N spacecraft into orbit.
2246 GMT (6:46 p.m. EDT)
Technicians are picking up with planned Launch Minus-20 minute activities.
2245 GMT (6:45 p.m. EDT)
It appears the ordnance arming issue may be coming to a resolution soon.
2243 GMT (6:43 p.m. EDT)
The launch team is performing some troubleshooting steps on the second stage engine ordnance arming bus.
2241 GMT (6:41 p.m. EDT)
Assuming the safety system and second stage ordnance constraints can be fixed in time, clocks would resume at 7:01 p.m. for liftoff five minutes later. However, there will be no spare time to deal with any other issues that arise, since liftoff will be occurring at the end of today's launch window.
2237 GMT (6:37 p.m. EDT)
NEW LAUNCH TIME. Liftoff has been formally re-targeted for 7:06 p.m. EDT (2306 GMT). But the problems need to be resolved before the countdown can proceed.
2235 GMT (6:35 p.m. EDT)
Everything remains in a holding pattern while a pair of last-minute technical problems are examined.
2229 GMT (6:29 p.m. EDT)
Boeing is "contemplating" a plan to reset the target launch time for the very end of today's launch window at 7:06 p.m. EDT, a company spokesman says. Both technical problems remain unresolved.
2224 GMT (6:24 p.m. EDT)
The launch team is performing as many timeline steps as possible, getting into position to proceed with the countdown pending resolution of the rocket safety system and second stage ordnance arming indication problems.
2218 GMT (6:18 p.m. EDT)
Today's available launch window runs 34 minutes to 7:06 p.m. EDT.
2215 GMT (6:15 p.m. EDT)
HOLD EXTENDED. Liftoff has been delayed beyond 6:32 p.m. EDT so the launch team can resolve a pair of technical problems that have cropped up in the late stages of today's countdown. A new liftoff time has not been set.
2212 GMT (6:12 p.m. EDT)
In addition to the second stage engine ordnance arming issue, the launch team is reviewing an issue noted with the command receiver decoders when that Range Safety system was switching between internal and external power.
2212 GMT (6:12 p.m. EDT)
T-minus 5 minutes and holding. The countdown has entered a planned 15-minute hold. This pause is designed to give the launch team the opportunity to catch up on any work running behind schedule and verify all is in readiness for the final moments of the count. A series of management polls will be conducted during the hold to give approval to proceed with the launch.
2210 GMT (6:10 p.m. EDT)
The launch team reports a problem with the second stage engine ordnance arm indication. Technicians are discussing.
2209 GMT (6:09 p.m. EDT)
There is a boat in the restricted waters off the coast. But the Range expects the vessel to be clear by the planned launch time.
2207 GMT (6:07 p.m. EDT)
T-minus 10 minutes and counting. The countdown will enter a planned hold in five minutes.
The launch team and management are guiding the countdown from the Delta Operations Center, located about 9,200 feet from the pad. The engineers overseeing the rocket and ground systems are located on the third floor and the Mission Directors Center room is on the fourth floor. Both rooms have a view of pad 37B and the Delta 4 rocket out their windows, which are covered with shatter-proof film. Other rooms are also set up for engineering support.
The DOC was formerly built to support the Titan-Centaur program, but has since been refurbished to support Delta 4.
2157 GMT (5:57 p.m. EDT)
The Boeing launch team is not working any major technical concerns threatening today's planned 6:32 p.m. EDT liftoff of the GOES-N weather satellite. Engineers are discussing a red alarm received on one of the solid rocket motor nozzle steering pistons. However, officials say this does not appear to be a serious issue.
2147 GMT (5:47 p.m. EDT)
The countdown is pretty quiet now. The rocket is fully fueled
2147 GMT (5:47 p.m. EDT)
T-minus 30 minutes and counting. The countdown is headed to the T-minus 5 minute point where a 15-minute hold is planned. Liftoff is targeted for 6:32 p.m., the opening of today's 34-minute launch window.
2142 GMT (5:42 p.m. EDT)
The first stage Common Booster Core slew tests have been finished, wrapping up this pre-launch program.
2135 GMT (5:35 p.m. EDT)
The second stage engine steering checks have been completed. The first stage tests are next.
2133 GMT (5:33 p.m. EDT)
Weather conditions to be excellent at Cape Canaveral this afternoon. Winds remain below the 14-knot liftoff limit and skies are clear.
2129 GMT (5:29 p.m. EDT)
The engine slew tests have begun -- starting with the second stage RL10 engine.
2128 GMT (5:28 p.m. EDT)
The team is now preparing to conduct the steering checks of the Delta 4 rocket's engines.
2127 GMT (5:27 p.m. EDT)
The RS-68 first stage main engine spin start pressurization operation is starting.
2120 GMT (5:20 p.m. EDT)
The Air Force-controlled Eastern Range has completed the inhibited command destruct receiver checks. This ensures safety personnel can destroy the Delta 4 rocket if it veers off course or experiences a major problem.
2109 GMT (5:09 p.m. EDT)
Health checks of the command receiver decoder devices on the rocket are starting. These units would hear the command from Range Safety and trigger the Delta 4's destruct system if a problem occurred during launch.
2102 GMT (5:02 p.m. EDT)
Now passing Launch Minus-90 minutes and counting.
2055 GMT (4:55 p.m. EDT)
The RF link checks between the rocket and ground have been completed and verified acceptable.
2053 GMT (4:53 p.m. EDT)
The TEL-4 ground tracking station at the Cape has acquired the rocket telemetry stream during this test to ensure good continuity for flight.
2052 GMT (4:52 p.m. EDT)
The S-band transmitter is powered up for the telemetry RF link checks.
2049 GMT (4:49 p.m. EDT)
The next event in the countdown will be telemetry relay link checks coming up in a few minutes.
2033 GMT (4:33 p.m. EDT)
Using launch pad cameras, engineers have completed a check of the rocket's thermal insulation as planned with no problems reported.
2032 GMT (4:32 p.m. EDT)
Two hours and counting. There are no technical constraints being assessed on the Delta 4 rocket or GOES-N spacecraft, Boeing says. Weather conditions remain favorable. So everything is still "go" across the board for today's 6:32 p.m. EDT launch.
2030 GMT (4:30 p.m. EDT)
There are no Collision Avoidance, or COLA, blackout periods for today's launch window. COLAs are short periods of time in which a rocket cannot lift off, ensuring the vehicle's trajectory does not take it too close to another object already in space.
2020 GMT (4:20 p.m. EDT)
Topping of the second stage liquid oxygen tank has commenced, putting all four fuel tanks aboard the Delta 4 rocket in stable replenish mode to replace the propellants that boil off given their supercold nature.
2004 GMT (4:04 p.m. EDT)
The launch team is tracking no technical problems, weather remains "go" and the Range is operating normally as the countdown rolls on. Launch time is still 6:32 p.m. EDT.
1957 GMT (3:57 p.m. EDT)
Filling of the second stage liquid oxygen tank has been completed. Also, the topping mode has started for the stage's liquid hydrogen tank.
Meanwhile, engineers are conducting the scheduled evaluation of the Delta 4 rocket's thermal insulation following the loading of supercold propellants into the vehicle.
1947 GMT (3:47 p.m. EDT)
The first stage liquid hydrogen tank is now entering the topping phase.
1940 GMT (3:40 p.m. EDT)
Filling of the second stage liquid hydrogen tank has been completed. Topping begins shortly.
1932 GMT (3:32 p.m. EDT)
Now three hours to go until liftoff time.
1925 GMT (3:25 p.m. EDT)
Second stage liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fueling remains in work.
1920 GMT (3:20 p.m. EDT)
A check of the weather conditions indicates none of the launch commit criteria rules are being violated. Skies are clear and it is a beautiful day along the Space Coast. The only slight worry is winds breaking the 14-knot limit in place at launch time.
The latest official forecast a few clouds at 3,000 feet, scattered clouds at 22,000 feet, good visibility, southeasterly winds from 120 degrees at 8 gusting to 14 knots and a temperature of 84-86 degrees F.
Overall, there is a 90 percent chance of acceptable weather for today's launch attempt.
1914 GMT (3:14 p.m. EDT)
The first stage liquid hydrogen tank fast-fill just ended. Vent and relief checks are upcoming.
1910 GMT (3:10 p.m. EDT)
Fueling of the Delta 4 rocket continues for today's 6:32 p.m. EDT launch of the GOES-N weather satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The launch team is not reporting any problems.
1908 GMT (3:08 p.m. EDT)
The second stage conditioning on the liquid hydrogen side has finished. Loading of the tank is commencing. This is the last of the rocket's four cryogenic supplies to be loaded in today's countdown to launch.
Complex 37 has two giant sphere-shaped fuel tanks to store the cryogenic liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. The LOX tank holds 250,000 gallons and LH2 sphere about 850,000 gallons. The tanks' large supplies should allow for at least three consecutive launch attempts before having to be replenished.
The cryogenics flow from the storage tanks, through pipes to the base of the pad. For the first stage, the propellants are routed up to the launch table upon which the rocket sits. Tail service masts, the large box-like structures at the base of the vehicle, feed the oxygen and hydrogen to the stage in separate umbilicals. The second stage receives its cryos from the middle swing arm that extends from the Fixed Umbilical Tower to the front-side of the rocket.
1858 GMT (2:58 p.m. EDT)
The first stage liquid oxygen tank is now being topped off. Meanwhile, the second stage liquid oxygen loading started a few minutes ago.
On the liquid hydrogen side of things, the first stage "fast-fill" continues and the second stage is being chilled down before loading.
1848 GMT (2:48 p.m. EDT)
The chilldown of the second stage liquid oxygen system is being completed, clearing the way for loading the vehicle's tank.
1838 GMT (2:38 p.m. EDT)
The launch team has been given approval to start chilldown conditioning of the upper stage liquid hydrogen system.
1833 GMT (2:33 p.m. EDT)
The first stage liquid oxygen loading just finished. The tank has been loaded with its supercold oxidizer that is chilled to Minus-298 degrees F. Topping will be completed a little later.
The liquid oxygen chilldown for the rocket's second stage is now beginning in advance of filling that tank.
1732 GMT (1:32 p.m. EDT)
Now inside the final four hours of the GOES-N launch countdown. Launch time remains set for 6:32 p.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
1824 GMT (2:24 p.m. EDT)
First stage liquid hydrogen tanking operation is transitioning from "slow-fill" to "fast-fill" mode.
1822 GMT (2:22 p.m. EDT)
Fueling of the Delta 4 rocket's first stage continues. The liquid oxygen tank is over 80 percent full now while the hydrogen loading remains in the early phases.
1809 GMT (2:09 p.m. EDT)
The cold gas chilldown conditioning of the liquid hydrogen system has been accomplished. Liquid hydrogen propellant is beginning to flow into the first stage. This "slow-fill" will be sped up to "fast-fill" after a small portion of the tank is loaded.
Chilled to Minus-423 degrees Fahrenheit, the liquid hydrogen will be consumed by the RS-68 main engine along with liquid oxygen during the first four minutes, 27 seconds of the launch.
1742 GMT (1:42 p.m. EDT)
The hydrogen system's cold gas chilldown conditioning is now underway.
1739 GMT (1:39 p.m. EDT)
The first stage liquid oxygen loading in "slow-fill" mode has commenced.
1735 GMT (1:35 p.m. EDT)
The first stage liquid oxygen chilldown is complete. Fueling will begin in the "slow-fill" mode to load a small percentage of the tank. Then the process will speed up to the "fast-fill" mode until the tank is nearly full.
1727 GMT (1:27 p.m. EDT)
Approval has been given to start the cold gas chilldown conditioning of the first stage liquid hydrogen system.
1720 GMT (1:20 p.m. EDT)
Chilldown of the first stage liquid oxygen system is starting. This preps the tank and pumping to guard against shock with the supercold oxidizer begins flowing into the rocket a short time from now.
1702 GMT (1:02 p.m. EDT)
T-minus 5 hours, 15 minutes and counting! The Terminal Countdown has begun for today's launch of the Boeing Delta 4 rocket with the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-N (GOES-N). The countdown has one planned built-in hold at T-minus 5 minutes for 15 minutes, leading to liftoff at 6:32 p.m. EDT.
1655 GMT (12:55 p.m. EDT)
The launch pad systems and equipment stand ready for fueling activities, which should kick off shortly.
1652 GMT (12:52 p.m. EDT)
Correction -- The launch window duration is different from what had been announced following yesterday's scrub. The window is 34 minutes long, extending to 7:06 p.m.
1648 GMT (12:48 p.m. EDT)
All launch control consoles are manned and ready for Terminal Count. A poll was just performed of the team with no problems reported. A briefing on countdown procedures is now underway.
1620 GMT (12:20 p.m. EDT)
Launch pad workers have cleared the complex in preparation for the hazardous operations of fueling the Delta 4 rocket this afternoon. And the chilldown thermal conditioning of the liquid oxygen pump in the propellant storage area of launch pad 37B is being performed. Meanwhile, the vehicle's avionics have been turned on for today's countdown. The launch team is not tracking any significant problems and the weather looks great for liftoff at 6:32 p.m. EDT.
1602 GMT (12:02 p.m. EDT)
T-minus 5 hours, 15 minutes and holding. The countdown has just entered a planned 60-minute built-in hold, giving the team time to catch up on any work that could be running behind schedule. Once the clocks resume ticking at 1:02 p.m. EDT, the Terminal Countdown phase of today's launch operation will begin.
Read our earlier Mission Status Center coverage.
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