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Spy satellite no longer stuck on Earth? ULA sets new date for Delta IV Heavy and NROL-44 mission [U]

Update: December 10, 2020: Livestream for tonight’s launch is now available. Liftoff is scheduled for 8:09 p.m. EST.

United Launch Alliance has released a new target date for the NROL-44 mission using its massive Delta IV Heavy rocket. The classified mission for the U.S. National Reconnoissance Office Laboratory was originally set for August 26, but multiple failures to launch for various reasons took the launch off the calendar.

ULA now says the NROL-44 mission is targeting Thursday, December 10, between 5:50 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. EST. The launch provider highlights that this new date will require range availability, but the new date confirms that ULA is prepared to attempt to launch the Delta IV Heavy rocket before the end of the year.

In multiple instances, the Delta IV Heavy rocket automatically aborted flight just moments before liftoff to protect the payload and vehicle after anomalies were detected. Delta IV Heavy launches are few and far between because missions requiring the vehicle’s thrust aren’t as common. ULA is also retiring the rocket soon in favor of its more modern Vulcan rocket currently being developed.

Space Explored will be on site to bring live coverage of one of the last Delta IV Heavy launches next week.

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