Weather bumps Atlas 5 launch date yet again

Atlas 5 with NRO-52 sits at pad 41 as rain and wind on Saturday scrubs a fourth launch attempt

Rain and wind kept an Atlas 5 rocket on its launch pat at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station early Saturday. The United Launch Alliance team will try again early Sunday morning at 3:28 a.m. EDT.

This was the fourth scrubbed launch attempt for the Atlas 5, notable only as a point of trivia in that no other Atlas 5 mission has taken this many attempts to get off the ground. Of the four, three have been caused by weather and one by a technical problem.

Otherwise, safety first and mission success remains the focus of the ULA team as they set up to try again on Sunday. 

The weather forecast, unfortunately, remains less than ideal as this pattern of tropical moisture coming at us from offshore is expected to persist through the weekend. That means that once again coastal showers, thunderstorms and high wind will be a countdown concern.

When it finally flies, this Atlas 5 will carry a classified spacecraft for the National Reconnaissance Office into Earth orbit. Industry observers believe the payload is a data and communications satellite that will orbit at geosynchronous altitude, relaying signals to the ground from a variety of intelligence-gathering satellites in low Earth orbit.

Meanwhile, there was a rocket launch from Kazakhstan this morning as a Russian Soyuz launch vehicle successfully sent a Progress supply ship into Earth orbit bound for the International Space Station. Launch was seconds before 4:47 a.m. EDT.

The Progress is to dock with orbital outpost on Monday morning. (Screen grabs from NASA TV of the launch are below.)

-- Jim Banke

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