ULA Delays Next Launch Due to Anomaly During OA-6 Mission

ULA Delays Next Launch Due to Anomaly During OA-6 Mission

United Launch Alliance (ULA) today announced a delay in the launch of its next satellite, the Navy’s MUOS-5 mobile communications satellite, because of an anomaly in the Atlas V rocket’s first stage during the March 22 launch of Orbital ATK’s OA-6 mission to the International Space Station (ISS). 

During the OA-6 launch, the first stage shut down six seconds early according to ULA spokesperson Lyn Chassange.  The Centaur upper stage compensated by firing approximately 60 seconds longer than planned and successfully placed the OA-6 cargo spacecraft into the correct orbit.  Thus, the launch is a “mission success” even though the first stage underperformed.

ULA needs to investigate what happened, however.  Thus it is delaying the MUOS-5 launch until at least May 12 to “allow additional time to review the data and to confirm readiness.”  The original launch date was May 5.

Atlas V has a 100% mission success record so far in 62 launches.  The first stage is powered by Russian RD-180 engines, currently the focus of protracted debate in Congress over how many ULA can obtain.   ULA, the Air Force and Congress agree on the need to replace RD-180s with an American-made alternative so the United States is not reliant on a foreign supplier, especially one with which the United States now has a tense relationship.  The dispute is over the timing.  Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) want to end use of RD-180s in 2019; the Air Force and ULA want flexibility and other Senators, including Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), agree.

MUOS-5 is part of the Navy’s Mobile User Objective System of communications satellites and ground terminals to allow voice, video and mission data to be transmitted over a secure high-speed Internet Protocol-based system. 

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