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12-May-99 | Rain damages NAVSTAR on pad

At Cape Canaveral’s SLC-17A, the first Navstar IIR Global Positioning System satellite to fly since July 1997 has been postponed indefinitely. The spacecraft/third stage assembly were kept in storage during last week’s Delta III launch in case of a catastrophic failure at (or soon after) liftoff, and were transported to the pad on Thursday, 6 May. (Thanks to Florida Today‘s Justin Ray for sharing this information.) Unfortunately, rainwater intrusion into the Level 9 clean room during a heavy thunderstorm on 8 May has caused the Air Force to return the spacecraft to the payload processing facility for damage assessment. If there is little or no damage, payload integration and fairing installation will take a minimum of 9 days. If major repairs are needed, the spacecraft might have to be shipped back to Lockheed Martin in Valley Forge, Penna. In this case the launch vehicle would likely be destacked to clear the pad for the Delta II that will carry the FUSE spacecraft for NASA.

It is interesting to note that it is not possible for FUSE to be launched from Pad B. According to Justin Ray, who twice confirmed his information with Boeing’s Rich Murphy, FUSE must fly from Pad A because it is a 3-solid vehicle. Boeing has not done an engineering analysis on Pad B’s flame ducts, which were rebuilt to support Delta III launches, to determine the pulse effects at liftoff of a vehicle with only 3 solids. As there are few 7300 models on the docket, it is apparently more cost-effective to wait or destack than to perform the extensive engineering work. (Thanks again to Justin Ray.)

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