Florida hurricane forces California launch delay
United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced on Sept. 8, 2017, that the launch of an Atlas V 541 rocket carrying the NROL-42 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office has been postponed. While the launch is slated to take place in California, the delay was based on forecasting for Hurricane Irma.
The rocket is slated to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Space Launch Complex 3. However, according to ULA, some critical members of the company’s launch team that support both coasts are returning to Florida due to the threat from Hurricane Irma.
“The safety of our employees and their families are at the forefront of this decision,” the ULA statement said. “Hurricane preparations and hardware securing are underway at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.”
ULA said the classified spacecraft and Atlas V rocket are “healthy and safe.” A new launch date for the NROL-42 mission will be determined once the impacts of Hurricane Irma are understood.
Hurricane Irma was at one point a Category 5 as it churned in the Atlantic Ocean toward the Caribbean. As of 5 p.m. EDT (21:00 GMT) Sept. 9, 2017, the storm was centered just over 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of the Florida Keys as a Category 3 moving west-northwest at about nine mph (14 km/h). It is expected to begin a northward turn overnight and move up the west coast of Florida. The exact point the center of the storm will make landfall is uncertain, but widespread effects are expected across the whole state.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.