Kodiak launch delayed a day

Posted: Sunday, September 23, 2001

KODIAK (AP) -- Blustery weather delayed a planned missile launch Friday, but officials at the Kodiak Launch Complex said the forecast looked good for Saturday.

''At a weather briefing this morning, they said there is a 60 percent chance for Saturday,'' said Julie Andrews, a spokeswoman for Lockheed Martin, which built the Athena I rocket. ''Sunday and Monday are not so good, but it is looking good again for Tuesday.''

The $38 million launch mission was scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday, after a delay from Monday due to complications from the terror attacks. But as meteorologists had predicted, a low-pressure system from the Aleutians delivered gusty winds and a thick cloud cover that stopped the countdown Friday morning.

''We cannot launch in winds above 26 knots,'' said Jim Sardonia, an Air Force meteorologist. Winds above that speed can cause failure in the launch tower doors, which are supposed to unhinge like a clamshell to clear the rocket for liftoff.

Cloud cover also is a factor because range safety equipment must ''optically and electronically'' monitor the rocket's ascent for the first 5,000 feet, he said. Clouds mixed with rain and ice pose another major weather constraint because they can create lightning, which can abort the flight of the 144,000-pound, 62-foot rocket.

The Federal Aviation Administration has set a 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. launch window for the next few days. A cone-shaped launch hazard area extends 20 miles east from Narrow Cape over the Gulf of Alaska.

Once countdown begins, boats will begin to clear a marine safety zone at 1 p.m. A Coast Guard C-130 will fly the no-entry zone at 3 p.m. to make sure it is clear.

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