Hurricane Irma in the Atlantic Ocean has delayed the planned launch of an Atlas V rocket and it top-secret payload from Vandenberg Air Force Base in northern Santa Barbara County.
The United Launch Alliance rocket carrying National Reconnaissance Office cargo called NROL-42 had been set for a Sept. 14 departure.
“The decision to delay launch is based on the current forecasting for Hurricane Irma,” ULA officials said in a written statement released Friday. “Some critical members of the ULA launch team that support launches on both coasts are returning to Florida due to the threat from Hurricane Irma, which is currently forecast to impact the Cape Canaveral area early Monday morning.
“The safety of our employees and their families are at the forefront of this decision.”
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Both the launch vehicle and spacecraft are healthy and secure at Space Launch Complex-3 on South Base at Vandenberg.
“A new launch date for the NROL-42 mission will be determined once the impacts of the storm are understood,” ULA officials said.
Another launch previously planned for Sept. 30 has slipped a few days after the Space Exploration Technologies team said it needed more time, customer Iridium Next said.
Liftoff from Space Launch Complex-4 now is planned for 6:06 a.m. Oct. 4, Iridium officials said shortly after the Aug. 24 launch of a different Falcon rocket carrying a satellite for Taiwan.
The Oct. 4 mission will involve delivering another set of 10 Iridium Next satellites, bumping the number to 30 for the effort to build a second-generation constellation.