A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) successfully lifted off from Space Launch Complex-6 at Vandenberg AirForce Base in California on January 20th. The Delta IV Heavy, at 235 feet or approximately 23 stories tall, is the largest rocket ever to launch from the West Coast of the United States. The mission is in support of national defense.
"Today’s launch was the second Delta IV Heavy launch for the NRO in two months and was also the largest rocket ever launched from the west coast,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Mission Operations. “Most important is the critical NRO payload launched today which will significantly enhance the effectiveness and safety of the brave men and women defending our nation every day. Today’s successful launch represents the culmination of five years of hard work and exceptional skill in modifying the launch system to establish the west coast heavy lift capability for the nation and to integrate this important mission. I congratulate the combined NRO, Air Force, supplier and ULA team on this impressive accomplishment and successful launch.”
The ULA Delta IV Heavy vehicle featured a center common booster core with two strap-on common booster cores. Each common booster core was powered by the RS-68 cryogenic engine producing 660,000 pounds of thrust. An RL10B-2 cryogenic engine powered the second stage. Both engines are built by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. The payload was encased by a five-meter diameter (16.7-foot diameter), 63-foot composite bi-sector payload fairing. ULA constructed the Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle in Decatur, Ala.
The launch occurred after a multi-year construction effort to upgrade SLC-6 to accommodate the Delta IV Heavy. The last SLC-6 launch occurred Nov. 4, 2006, and was a Delta IV Medium, which launches one common core booster. This was the fifth launch of a Delta IV Heavy in program history, with the four previous launches occurring at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
ULA's next launch is the Atlas V Orbital Test Vehicle-2 (OTV FLT 2) launch in support of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) currently scheduled for Mar. 4, from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
ULA program management, engineering, test and mission support functions are headquartered in Denver, Colo. Manufacturing, assembly, and integration operations are located at Decatur, Ala., Harlingen, Texas, and San Diego, Calif. Launch operations are located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
For more information on the ULA joint venture, visit the ULA Web site at www.ulalaunch.com, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321).