United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy rocket has launched a military reconnaissance satellite into orbit.
Liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida came at 1:51 p.m. EDT June 11. The launch was originally scheduled for two days earlier until inclement weather forced its postponement.
Delta IV was designed by Boeing and is assembled at a ULA plant in Decatur, Ala. The Delta IV Heavy is the sole version of the rocket set to continue in use, as a phase-out has been slated for other versions.
Heavy versions of rockets — also known as heavy lift launch vehicles (HLLVs) — are used for payloads of unusual heft, generally upwards of 20,000 kg. Heavy rockets also will be employed in future public and private missions to Mars and beyond due to their greater thrust capacities.
The Air Force spy sat lifted into orbit by the Delta IV is both heavier and — though exact cost figures haven’t been revealed — was much pricier to build than the typical communications satellite. Video of the liftoff was curtailed about six minutes after liftoff at the request of the Air Force, which sought to protect the confidential nature of the mission.
SpaceX has five missions on its current flight manifest for its new Falcon Heavy launch vehicle. The first flight of a Falcon Heavy is expected by year’s end, with Spacex listing the initial launch as a demo but lately signaling a customer’s satellite may be taken along for the ride.
ULA, a Centennial, Colo.-based joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, is set to launch a Navy communications satellite on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral on June 24. The ULA-designed and –manufactured Atlas V is the latest launch vehicle in a family of rockets originated under Lockheed and taken over by the joint venture.