United Launch Alliance successfully launches NPOESS Preparatory Project


A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket carrying the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) spacecraft for NASA lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base October 28. This is ULA's 10th launch of the year and marked the 55th successful launch for the company.

"ULA is proud to have served NASA with 50 Delta II launches, achieving 100 percent mission success for a very diverse array of exceptionally important science missions," said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Mission Operations. "Today's successful NPP launch is a critical first step in demonstrating our country's next-generation earth-observing satellite system.  NPP will monitor weather conditions and gather climate data to greatly improve our knowledge of Earth's systems."

This mission was launched aboard a Delta II 7920-10 configuration vehicle featuring a ULA first stage booster powered by a Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RS-27A main engine and nine Alliant Techsystems (ATK) strap-on solid rocket motors. An Aerojet AJ10-118K engine powered the second stage. The payload was encased by a 10-foot-diameter composite payload fairing.

"In addition to the NPP spacecraft, the Delta II also carried three Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployers (P-POD) dispensers on the upper stage that deployed six cubesats following completion of the primary NPP mission," said Sponnick. "We are pleased that ULA can provide access to space for these university research satellites and expand the reach of the science community."

NPP will extend and improve upon the Earth climate data records established by NASA's Earth Observing System (EOS) fleet of satellites that have provided critical insights into the dynamics of the entire Earth system: clouds, oceans, vegetation, ice, solid Earth and atmosphere.

"The Delta II vehicle continues to offer excellent reliability and best value to our customers," said Sponnick. "We look forward to working with our customers to provide future Delta II launches here at Vandenberg."  

ULA's next launch is the Atlas V Mars Science Laboratory mission for NASA scheduled for Nov. 25, 2011 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.