Atlas V Engine Anomaly Forces Thrust Makeup During Cygnus Launch, Next Flight Delayed

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41 at 11:05 p.m. EDT on March 22, 2016 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Credit: Ken Kremer/

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – This week’s Atlas V rocket launch of a Cygnus cargo ship to the International Space Station (ISS) apparently experienced an engine anomaly during the climb to space that required a longer firing of the boosters upper stage engine so the payload could successfully achieve the required orbit.The stunningly beautiful nighttime blastoff of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V from the Florida space coast on Tuesday, March 22, was not quite as flawless as initially thought and has now forced a postponement of the next planned Atlas V launch as company engineers painstakingly evaluate the data.“The Centaur [upper stage] burned for longer than planned,” Lyn Chassagne, spokesperson for rocket maker ULA, told Universe Today.Apparently the Centaur had to make up for a thrust and velocity deficiency resulting from a shorter than planned firing of the Atlas V’s first stage RD-180 engines. “The team is evaluating the occurrence as part of the standard post-flight data analysis. Following successful spacecraft separation, Centaur performed a disposal burn,” Chessagne elaborated.The two stage ULA Atlas V lifted off on time at 11:05 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, March 22, 2016 from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl, under a picturesque moonlit sky carrying an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft on a resupply mission for NASA to the ISS.Following a 21-minute ascent, the S.S. Rick Husband Cygnus spacecraft was successfully deployed into its intended orbit approximately 144 miles above the Earth, inclined at 51.6 degrees to the equator, Orbital ATK confirmed in a statement.The Russian-made RD AMROSS RD-180 engines power the Atlas V first stage and the dual nozzle powerplants have been completely reliable in 62 Atlas launches to date.The RD-180s were supposed to fire for 255.5 seconds, or just over 4 minutes. But instead they —> Read More