The Space and Missile Systems Center believes the team of SMC, United Launch Alliance, National Reconnaissance Office, and other partners in the investigation a June 15 launch anomaly have developed the corrective actions needed to rule out a repeat problem with the rocket’s RL10 engine system cryogenic liquid hydrogen valve. The fix would be applied to both Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles. On June 15, an Atlas V boosting an NRO payload into orbit developed a performance degradation now attributed to an upper stage engine fuel leak. The corrective actions include using a different valve design that has been shown to “operate properly under the very cold temperature conditions experienced” by the Atlas V on June 15, according to an SMC release. The Air Force has shifted launch dates for two upcoming payloads using ULA’s heavy launchers—Wideband Global Satcom and Defense Support Program spacecraft.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.