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Leak Delays Atlas Rocket Launch for 15th Time

August 27, 1986

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE — The launch of an Atlas rocket carrying a weather satellite probably will be delayed a 15th time to repair potentially explosive liquid oxygen leaks in the first stage booster, officials said today.

In an unrelated incident, the United States suffered its fifth rocket failure in 1986 when an Aries research rocket launched early Saturday from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico had to be destroyed about 50 seconds after launch when its guidance system apparently malfunctioned. NASA announced the failure today.

The 40-foot rocket was carrying a 2,300-pound X-ray telescope and reached an altitude of about 70,000 feet when it was blown up by ground command. Had all gone well, the telescope would have conducted six minutes of space observations before parachuting back to Earth.

Blastoff for the much larger Atlas had been set for 8:52 a.m. Sept. 7, but Jim Elliott, a spokesman for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said tests Tuesday to confirm that a propellant leak had been fixed found a second leak.

"It's off now. They ran that propellant test yesterday and they came up with two leaks in the liquid oxygen system that they're going to have to do something about," he said. "They're looking at it in terms of a delay of three days." However, no new launch date has been set.

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