Spaceflight Insider

High winds force scrub of NROL-52 launch

Weather was the primary concern for this morning's launch attempt of the NROL-52 mission with blustery conditions, rain and wind lashing Florida's Space Coast.Photo Credit: Michael Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

Weather was the primary concern for this morning’s launch attempt of the NROL-52 mission with blustery conditions, rain and wind lashing Florida’s Space Coast. Photo Credit: Michael Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — High winds that had been blowing through Florida’s Space Coast scrubbed the launch of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 421 rocket that had been scheduled to start its journey at 4:07 a.m. EDT (08:07 GMT) Oct. 5, 2017. Both the payload and launch vehicle are safe as the launch team eyes a new launch date.

During a readiness poll, the launch team decided to postpone the flight from 4:07 a.m. to 4:22 a.m. EDT (08:07 to 08:22 GMT) after high winds delayed the start of the fueling. At around 2:30 a.m. EDT (06:30 GMT), liquid oxygen began flowing into the Centaur upper stage, however, weather conditions continued to worsen. Finally, at about 3:10 a.m. EDT (07:10 GMT), the launch was scrubbed due to windy ground conditions from a rain squall coming off the Atlantic Ocean. 

ULA’s official statement regarding the Oct. 5 scrub was as follows: The launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V carrying the NROL-52 mission was scrubbed today due to ground winds that prevented launch.

A new liftoff time has been set for 4:03 a.m. EDT (08:03 GMT) Friday, Oct. 6, 2017. The launch window should again be about 90 minutes long. However, weather is expected to only have a 30 percent chance of acceptable conditions. 

The Atlas V is slated to launch a geosynchronous communications satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. The vehicle is in a 421 configuration, meaning it has a 4-meter payload fairing, two strap-on solid rocket motors and a single-engine Centaur upper stage. While the nature of the mission is classified, it is speculated that the spacecraft is the second in the fourth generation of the Satellite Data System (SDS). Earlier versions of the SDS have operated in a geosynchronous orbit to relay data from reconnaissance satellites in low-Earth orbit.

When it does get off the ground it will be the sixth Atlas V to take to the skies in 2017. Two have occurred from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California while the rest were at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

ULA’s President and CEO, Tory Bruno, expressed a point of view that might have summed up how many were feeling when he tweeted the comment below on the social media platform, Twitter:



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,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

Reader Comments

Let’s see if we can get a re-fund. A bird and blast like this, plus the operating budget over, say, 15 years is easily a billion dollars. We can use it to buy 2-by-4’s for Puerto Rico. I don’t feel like we’re getting our money’s worth out of the NRO anyway, so this is a no-brainer.

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