Launch of powerful weather satellite delayed until Wednesday

Launch of a Delta 2 rocket carrying a powerful weather satellite was called off early Tuesday after a technical issue and boats in an offshore danger zone.

United Launch Alliance

Launch of a Delta 2 rocket carrying a sophisticated polar weather satellite was called off at the last minute Tuesday by an apparent technical issue with the booster and wayward boats that strayed into the the offshore danger zone at the California launch site.

The countdown proceeded smoothly to the T-minus four-minute mark with liftoff from pad 2-West at Vandenberg Air Force Base northwest of Los Angeles targeted for 4:47:35 a.m. PST. But within seconds of resuming the countdown, a controller called "hold, hold, hold."

Telemetry indicated an issue with the Delta 2 and range safety officers said boats had intruded into the restricted zone below the rocket's planned trajectory. With a 66-second launch window, engineers did not have enough time to resolve the issues and the launch attempt was called off.

Mission managers told the team to recycle for a 24-hour turnaround, setting up for a second launch attempt at 4:47:03 a.m. Wednesday.

The goal of the flight is to boost the first of four Joint Polar Satellite System weather stations into a 512-mile-high orbit around Earth's poles. The $1.6 billion mission will improve forecasting, with three follow-on satellites planned over the next two decades.

  • William Harwood

    Bill Harwood has been covering the U.S. space program full-time since 1984, first as Cape Canaveral bureau chief for United Press International and now as a consultant for CBS News. He covered 129 space shuttle missions, every interplanetary flight since Voyager 2's flyby of Neptune and scores of commercial and military launches. Based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Harwood is a devoted amateur astronomer and co-author of "Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia."