Credit: United Launch Alliance
The launch from Cape Canaveral of a top secret spy satellite for the U.S. government was aborted in dramatic fashion just three seconds prior to liftoff Saturday as its United Launch Alliance Delta 4-Heavy rocket fired its engines, a rare occurrence that ULA said would delay the mission by at least one week.
The 235-foot-tall (71.6-meter) Delta 4-Heavy rocket was three seconds from liftoff at 3:28 a.m. EDT (0728 GMT) when a computer detected a problem and automatically called the abort.
The abort occurred as the Delta 4-Heavy’s three Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A main engines were igniting, but before the hydrogen-fueled engines reached full power and hold-down restraints disengaged to permit the rocket to climb away from pad 37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
“Three, two, one and liftoff!” said Dillon Rice, the commentator on ULA’s launch broadcast.
Fire rose around the Delta 4-Heavy’s three first stage booster cores as the main engines began to ignite. The fireball is typically seen during normal Delta 4-Heavy launches.
But the heavy-lifter remained on the ground, and the orange glow dissipated as a member of ULA’s launch team confirmed the engines had shut down.
“Stand by,” Rice said. “We’ve ...