Two USAF Missions Delayed as ULA Investigates Repeat Component Problem

United Launch Alliance hoists its Atlas V booster onto the mobile launch platform at the Vertical Integration Facility adjacent to Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., on May 17, 2019. The rocket was supposed to launch the fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency protected communications satellite for the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, but the launch has been delayed due to a rocket-component issue. ULA photo.

United Launch Alliance is looking into a rocket component issue that has now delayed two Air Force missions this year and may affect others. The component in question is built and tested at an undisclosed ULA supplier and is used on the Atlas V and Delta IV rockets, which carry Air Force assets into space.

“During final acceptance testing of the component, the support equipment measured off-nominal voltage,” ULA spokeswoman Heather McFarland told Air Force Magazine on July 17. “The team is reviewing the data and inspecting the hardware to determine root cause.”

This week, the company announced the voltage problem will delay the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s second GPS III satellite launch from July 25 to Aug. 22 or later.

“Upon further evaluation, additional time is needed to replace and retest the component on the launch vehicle,” McFarland said of Delta IV.

The Air Force’s fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite launch has also been pushed from June 27 to at least Aug. 8 following the same component issue on the Atlas V as well as a rocket battery failure.

“We are evaluating the test data and will determine if any corrective action is needed on launch vehicles currently in processing,” McFarland said when asked if the voltage problem could affect any other Air Force missions. “We are solely focused on our customer’s mission and 100 percent mission success. We will launch when it is safe to do so.”