United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) investigation into an October 2012 launch anomaly wrapped up last week, a company official said Thursday.
Though ULA Director of Mission Management Ron Fortson said during a conference call previewing the Thursday Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF-6 launch the report was complete, he didn’t say when it would be released nor if it would be made public. Fortson also didn’t provide the results. ULA deferred to the Air Force for comment Friday. The Air Force did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Fortson said despite the completion of the report, the company wouldn’t process Thursday’s launch any different from the previous, and successful, GPS IIF-5 launch in February. ULA said in February it finished the first phase of its launch anomaly investigation and found “no systemic issue” with the Delta IV launch vehicle’s upper stage RL-10B2 engine, which produced lower-than-expected thrust in the GPS IIF-3 launch, though it successfully delivered the satellite to orbit. ULA said in February phase one of the investigation showed improvements implemented following the anomaly were appropriate.
The Air Force’s GPS IIF-6 launch scheduled for Thursday will take place from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., with the launch window opening at 8:08 p.m. EDT. GPS IIF-6 will help provide greater accuracy, increased signals and enhanced performance in precision, navigation and timing (PNT) for users. A Delta IV Medium-plus rocket in the 4,2 configuration will deliver the satellite to semi-synchronous circular orbit. The GPS IIF series is developed by Boeing [BA].
The Air Force’s anomaly with the Delta IV rocket’s RL-10B2 upper stage engine during the GPS IIF-3 launch in 2012 prompted both a ULA investigation and an Air Force investigation. ULA’s investigation was done in partnership with Aerojet Rocketdyne, developer of the RL-10B2 engine, and Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (AFSMC) while an accident investigation board (AIB) was chartered by Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) chief Gen. William Shelton. An AFSPC official said in February both reports should have completed by April.
Emails to AFSMC and Space Command for further details on the reports were not returned by press time. ULA is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Boeing. Aerojet Rocketdyne is a division of GenCorp [GY].