ULA: OA-7 confirmed for launch on March 24, WGS-9 set for March 18
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — United Launch Alliance (ULA) and NASA issued releases on Wednesday, March 15, stating that the seventh flight of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft was now confirmed for Friday, March 24. Interestingly, ULA has requested the option to launch the day prior on March 23, pending Eastern Range availability – denoting the Space Coast’s packed launch schedule.
Engineers at ULA wanted the additional time so as to both replace and retest a first stage hydraulic component on the Atlas V 401 rocket tasked with sending the S.S. John Glenn Cygnus spacecraft out of Earth’s gravity well and on its way to the International Space Station.
Meanwhile, the Atlas V rocket, as well as the OA-7 Cygnus spacecraft, remain secure in their processing facilities. If everything continues to go according to plan, the launch window for the OA-7 S.S. John Glenn will open at 9 p.m. EDT (01:00 a.m. EDT on March 25). The site for this flight will be Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41 located in Florida.
Meanwhile, the Colorado-based company is also working to conduct another launch from the Cape; this one is the flight of a Delta IV Medium+ (5,4) rocket with the ninth Wideband Global SATCOM satellite (WGS-9) satellite for the U.S. Air Force on March 18. The window is slated to open at 7:44 p.m. EDT (23:44 GMT) and remain open for about an hour and 15 minutes.
According to a report written by Justin Ray on SpaceFlight Now, the cause of this 24-hour slip (WGS-9 had been slated to launch on March 17) was the March 14 scrub of a SpaceX Falcon 9 with the commercial EchoStar XXIII communications satellite. In his article, Ray noted: “Despite the 43-hour turnaround between SpaceX’s next attempt and the Delta 4’s scheduled launch, the Range ruled late Tuesday it could not support the military satellite flight on Friday evening. That automatically moved the Delta 4 to Saturday.”
If things go as they are currently scheduled, this could mean an incredibly busy time for the Eastern Range with launches taking place on March 16, 18, and 24 (in terms of OA-7, this could possibly be the 23rd).
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.