US launch vehicles suffer sea of stand-downs & aborts…but Antares launched Cygnus NG-14 OK (Updated)

by | Oct 5, 2020 | Launches, NASA, Seradata News, SpaceX

In what has been a very strange period for launch delays, multiple US government and commercial satellite launches have been affected by a series of aborts, stand-downs and delays. However, one happened in good time.

Having suffered a weather related delay on 30 September, the Antares 230+ launch of the Cygnus NG-14 (aka Kalpana Chawla) cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) found itself delayed again. The launch was called off 2 minutes and 40 seconds before its planned 0138 GMT launch window on 2 October due to an issue with a piece of ground support equipment.  That launch did take place successfully however the following day at 0116 GMT on 3 October from the Wallops Island launch site.  The flight also carried seven Cubesats, Bobcat, Spoc, Neutron, Descent, Sattla-1, and two Lemurs. Some of these will be released from the ISS, others deployed from the Cygnus once its cargo mission has been completed.

Update on 5 October: ISS Canadarm-2 captured the Cygnus NG-14 spacecraft at 0932 GMT and berthed on the nadir CBM port of the Unity module at 1201 GMT (Times according to Jonathan McDowell).

Antares 230+ ignites for flight to ISS carrying Cygnus NG-14. Courtesy: NASA TV


While that flight did get off the ground, three other launches did not. The most prominent mission delayed was the United Launch Alliance (ULA) operated Delta IV Heavy carrying the secret NRO L-44 mission – thought to be a Mentor-class signals intelligence satellite – for the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). This was originally planned to fly in late-August from Cape Canaveral, Florida, but suffered some issues with a ground pneumatic system. However, this was not apparently resolved and caused a formal abort at three seconds before launch on 29 August after a high volumetric flow rate pressure regulator did not open and a warning signal from this prevented the launch. Further attempts in late September (26 – 30 September) were stymied by a gantry retraction issue and then by processing delays related to the hazard of lightning strikes, followed by a hydraulic pipe issue during gantry retraction.

A final launch attempt on 1 October was stopped by a second abort seven seconds before the planned 0354 GMT launch window, caused by a sensor reading on the launch vehicle indicating there was a problem. While the pad ignitors were lit, the in chamber ignitors were not and there was no ignition of the main or booster engines. The launch, which held up other launches at Cape Canaveral due to range availability including the SpaceX Falcon 9 flights mentioned below, is now set for circa 8 September.

Having been delayed by weather conditions in late September and early October, the planned 3 October Falcon 9 launch of the GPS III-4 navigation satellite for the US Air Force (now the US Space Force) was aborted at L-2 seconds before the 0143 GMT Launch Window. The abort was caused by an unexpected pressure rise in the turbomachinery gas generator. (The fault was later traced to protective lacquer blocking a relief valve on the gas generator). Another attempt is to be made in late October.

A Falcon 9 launch of 60 Starlink satellites was delayed in September by rough seas preventing the drone ship barges being in position for the first stage recovery attempt, then later by poor weather at the pad. However, that launch suffered its own abort 18 seconds before the 1317 GMT planned launch time at Cape Canaveral due to a ground sensor issue. This mission has continued to suffer weather-related delays since the start of October but did eventually fly on 6 October.

Matt Wilson contributed to this story.

About Seradata

Seradata produce the renowned SpaceTrak Launch & Satellite Database. Trusted by 100 of the world’s leading Space organisations, SpaceTrak is a fully queryable database used for market analysis, failure/risk assessment, spectrum analysis and space situational awareness (SSA).

For more information go to

Related Articles

Landsat 9 has been launched to continue NASA Earth sciences project

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket has carried the NASA Landsat 9 (and four co-payloads) into low Earth Read more

ULA launches SBIRS GEO-5 to bolster American missile launch detection capability

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully launched the SBIRS GEO-5, TDO 3 and TDO 4 satellites into a GTO orbit Read more

Delta IV Heavy launches NRO L-82 reconnaissance satellite

A Delta IV Heavy rocket, operated by the United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched the NRO L-82 payload into orbit on Read more

Seradata Space Conference 2021: Full agenda is now available

Seradata has now completed its agenda for its two-half day (UK afternoons) virtual conference on 23-24 June 2021.  In addition, Read more

Amazon selects ULA Atlas V launches for upcoming LEO constellation Project Kuiper

Amazon has made its first official contract award for its future LEO satellite internet constellation – known as Project Kuiper. The award, Read more

US Space Force hands out four launch contracts: two apiece to ULA and SpaceX

On 9 March 2021 the US Space Force (USSF) awarded launch contracts for four upcoming missions planned to launch in Read more

NRO L-44 mission is launched successfully by upgraded Delta IV Heavy

The NRO L-44 (ORION 10) spacecraft of the US National Reconnaissance Office, was finally launched by an upgraded Delta IV Read more

ULA Atlas V launches NRO L-101

The US National Reconnaissance Office's NRO L-101 mission was launched successfully from the SLC-41 pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Read more