Due to a problem with the rocket’s Liquid Oxygen system, United Launch Alliance (ULA) postponed the launch of an Atlas V rocket today (May 17). ULA has rescheduled its backup launch for Tuesday afternoon (May 18), with liftoff now set for 1:31 p.m. EDT (1731 GMT). On Monday, at 1:42 p.m. EDT (1742 GMT), the two-stage rocket was set to launch from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida (May 17). The payload was a missile-warning satellite for the United States Space Force.
The mission, dubbed SBIRS Geo-5 (Space-Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit Flight 5), is ULA’s first launch of 2021. However, due to issues with ground systems at the launch pad, the company was forced to postpone the launch by 24 hours. The T-0 was pushed back by seven minutes as part of a collision-avoidance manoeuvre, prompting the official cancellation. These manoeuvres are carried out to prevent colliding with an already existing entity in space.
Crews discovered an anomaly during the upper stage’s Liquid Oxygen chill down operations shortly after the delay. Engineers were sent to the launch pad, but they were unable to fix the problem in time for Monday’s scheduled launch window of 40 minutes. With the aid of infrared sensors, the SBIRS Geo-5 satellite, designed by Lockheed Martin for $1 billion, can detect and monitor plumes emanating from missile launches around the world, according to military officials.
Officials say its capabilities would enable US and allied forces to prepare for any imminent attacks. The satellite is protected by a payload fairing with a diameter of 13.12 feet (4 metres) and a red and blue symbol depicting an eagle carrying a rocket in its talons with the Earth in the background.