August 30th, NROL-44,Delta IV Heavy HOT ABORT!
From SLC-37B, The ULA Delta IV Heavy launched a top secret payload at 3:28 AM est
For the first time on the Florida coast since Aug. 2018, the largest of the Delta rocket family tried to soar into the skies for the 12th time in history. Three seconds til liftoff the computer system shut down the engines and the rocket never left the pad. At T-minus five seconds the engines did ignite, giving us that spectacular fire ball start we all looked forward too, though seconds later it was clear something had gone wrong. The rocket failed to move and the flames died down. Myself in the crowd of roughly one hundred people all sat in silence waiting to see what would happen next. Then came official word from ULA that they would be standing down, and the launch would be a minimum of seven days from now.
The Delta IV Heavy is the largest of the Delta IV family and the worlds second highest capacity rocket in operation, second only to SpaceX's Falcon Heavy. Developed by United Launch Alliance (ULA) it debuted in 2004 and is comprised of an upper stage, and central common booster core, and two addition strap on boosters. The rocket uses three RS-68 engines, creating a fireball that engulfs part of the rocket just before liftoff, making it one of the most anticipated launches for onlookers. This is caused by valves opening up that control the flow of liquid hydrogen to the engines. Some of it boils out of the engine bells and lingers around the rocket, so when ignition starts all that excess hydrogen catches, and creates a fireball that scorches the booster cores. This has been studied and has no effect on the rocket or the flight.
Launching from SLC-37B, the home of the Delta IV rockets on the East coast. Comprised of two launch pads, 37A, and 37B, the site was originally used in the 1960's for non crewed Apollo missions. After Apollo 5 it was mothballed and later demolished where it sat unused until the 1990's.
The payload for this launch is top secret and belongs to the National Reconnaissance office. (NRO) so not much is known. Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) and mariners (NOTMARs) must be issued to provide safety measures for each rocket launch and show the hazard areas where debris may potentially fall. These areas show the rocket heading in an Easterly direction over the Atlantic Ocean and therefore make a geostationary orbit almost a certain thing. Many have speculate what type of satellite the payload may be, but we won't do that here.