This weekend will play host to two early Saturday morning rocket launches, one American and the other Russian. The first, a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V will launch a classified U.S. Spy Satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. The second will carry an uncrewed Progress 68 cargo ship aboard a Soyuz Rocket bound for the International Space Station (ISS).
The ULA launch is planned for 7:31 GMT (3:31 EDT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch of the classified NROL-52 spy satellite was originally planned for October 5 however, poor weather conditions on the day delayed the launch. An additional delay pushed the launch out a further week following the discovery of a telemetry transmitter issue.
The launch of the NROL-52 satellite by ULA comes less than a month after the launch of the National Reconnaissance Office’s NROL-42 satellite on September 24.
The Progress 68 cargo ship is set to deliver 3 tons of supplies to the ISS including fresh food and fuel. The Soyuz rocket carrying the cargo ship will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Following the launch, the ship will perform 34 orbits of Earth before proceeding to the ISS. It is expected to reach the station on Monday, October 16.
The Progress 68 also suffered delays following its planned launch on Thursday, October 12. The “unspecified issue” was resolved early Friday, according to a NASA update and the launch given the go-ahead for Saturday morning. The delay ensured that Roscosmos could not attempt the new ultrafast ISS rendezvous plan. The plan would have allowed the Progress 68 to deliver its supplies just 3.5 hours after launch.
Additionally, the delayed launch will put a strain on the ISS crews’ resources and, as a result, a spacewalk planned for Wednesday, October 16 will be delayed. Should the new ISS supply run go according to plan, the spacewalk is expected to be rescheduled for October 20.
Image Credit: United Launch Alliance