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History of the Delta Launch Vehicle

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To Reach the High Frontier: A History of U.S. Launch Vehicles

"A valuable contribution to the field of aerospace literature," this book includes an extensive overview of Delta history and development along with chapters on Atlas, Titan, Scout, Space Shuttle, and much more.

Order the book today


Many other excellent books about spaceflight are recommended here.


Delta Links

Current NASA Programs launched by Delta rockets

WIND (Delta 227) has far surpassed its five year design lifetime and continues to make detailed observations of the solar wind.

Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer (Delta 230) is providing scientists with a wealth of data on cosmic x-ray sources.

Advanced Composition Explorer (Delta 247) is making continuous solar observations from the Earth-Sun L1 libration point, where it has sufficient propellant to maintain its orbit until approximately 2024.

Landsat-7 (Delta 268) is the latest addition to the program, frequently referred to as "the central pillar of the national remote sensing capability," that has been continuously providing Earth images in visible and infrared wavelengths since 1972.

2001 Mars Odyssey (Delta 284), the third orbiter in NASA’s Mars Surveyor program, contains three primary science instruments that map the Martian surface in terms of mineralogy, morphology, and elemental composition, and measure the surface environment’s radiation levels. Mars Odyssey began science operations in February 2002. Its primary science mission ended in August 2004, but it continues to return spectacular images during its extended mission and in December 2010 it set the record for the longest-serving spacecraft at Mars.

TIMED (Delta 289) is studying the uppermost layers of Earth’s atmosphere, and will provide a baseline global map of this region. TIMED is an acronym for Thermosphere Ionosphere Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics.

Aqua (Delta 291) is carrying six state-of-the-art instruments to comprehensively study Earth’s water cycle, including "atmospheric temperature and humidity profiles, clouds, precipitation and radiative balance; terrestrial snow and sea ice; sea surface temperature and ocean productivity; [and] soil moisture."

The Mars Exploration Rovers (Delta 298 and Delta 299) both far exceeded their design lifetime of 90 days, proved that at one time Mars was "soaking wet," and continue to send a wealth of imagery and scientific evidence. Spirit landed in Gusev Crater, 15 degrees south of Mars’ equator, on 4 January 2004; it finally gave up the ghost on 22 March 2010 after becoming mired in a sand pit. Opportunity landed at Meridiani Planum, about two degrees south of the equator and halfway around the planet from Gusev, on 25 January 2004; in 2011 it completed an audacious four-mile trek to Endeavour crater.

Spitzer Space Telescope (Delta 300) is the last of the Great Observatories, a highly successful group that includes the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and the venerable Hubble Space Telescope. Known at launch as SIRTF (Space Infrared Telescope Facility), Spitzer is mapping the sky in the infrared spectrum with resolution and sensitivity far surpassing its predecessors, IRAS (Delta 166) and COBE (Delta 189).

Aura (Delta 306), the third spacecraft in the Earth Observing System, carries a suite of instruments which will provide comprehensive data on atmospheric composition, chemistry and dynamics.

MESSENGER (Delta 307) became the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury on 18 March 2011 and will map the entire planet from an altitude of as little as a couple hundred kilometers. MESSENGER is an acronym for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging.

Swift (Delta 309) is an Earth-orbiting observatory dedicated to the study of gamma-ray burst (GRB) science. As it detects new gamma-ray bursts, it "swiftly" relays their location to ground stations and then autonomously reorients itself to study the burst using its array of multi-wavelength telescopes. Swift discovers approximately 100 bursts per year.

Deep Impact (Delta 311) intercepted comet Temple 1 on 4 July 2005, firing an 820-pound copper projectile with precision accuracy into the comet’s nucleus. The spacecraft survived its passage through the harsh environment of the coma; its extended mission, known as EPOXI took it past comet Hartley 2 on 4 November 2010. EPOXI’s mission will conclude at the end of 2011.

CALIPSO (Delta 314), jointly operated by NASA and CNES (Centre National d’Études Spatiales) of France, is at work generating a global map of atmospheric aerosol particles. CALIPSO is an acronym for Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations.

CloudSat (Delta 314) is studying the formation and function of clouds, answering some basic questions about how they generate rain and snow, to improve the science of climatology.

STEREO (Delta 319) is the Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory, a pair of satellites that are imaging the Sun’s eruptions and prominences in three dimensions by viewing it from separate positions in heliocentric orbit.

THEMIS (Delta 323) is a constellation of five mini-satellites that examined the Earth’s magnetosphere and its interaction with the solar wind from various points along the magnetotail. THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms) completed its primary mission in 2010, although three of its satellites continue to gather data. Meanwhile, the other two satellites have been repurposed as ARTEMIS (Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun) and arrived in lunar orbit in June–July 2011, where they will study the Moon’s interior and surface composition, as well as how the solar wind flows past it.

Dawn (Delta 327) is on an eight-year asteroid tour, and arrived at asteroid Vesta on 16 July 2011. It is mapping the asteroid’s surface and providing data that could address the role of size and water in determining the evolution of the planets. After a nine-month stay Dawn will depart for asteroid Ceres, a six-month visit that is expected to occur in 2015. Dawn is using a xenon ion engine similar to that used on the highly successful Deep Space 1 mission, which launched aboard Delta 261 in 1998.

The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope (Delta 333), formerly known as GLAST (Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope), is an exploration of the cosmos in the gamma-ray spectrum. It will expand on the knowledge only hinted at by the complete sky survey of the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.

OSTM/Jason-2 (Delta 334) has completed its primary goals for the Ocean Surface Topography Mission and continues to provide data on sea surface height for climate forecasting research.

Kepler (Delta 339) is the first mission specifically designed to hunt for terrestrial (i.e. Earth-sized) planets in our local region of the Milky Way galaxy. As of February 2011 it has found twenty confirmed planets ranging in size from roughly 1½ times Earth radius to 1½ times Jupiter radius.

Aquarius (Delta 354) will measure sea surface salinity, an important facet of climate studies. The mission is a collaboration between NASA and Argentina’s Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales.

GRAIL (Delta 356) consists of a pair of satellites flying in precise formation to create the most accurate gravitational map of the Moon to date. Launched on 10 September 2011, the spacecraft will take a four-month circuitous route past the Earth-Sun L1 libration point, arriving at the Moon on the cusp of New Year’s, 2012.

Other links

United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of The Boeing Company and Lockheed Martin Corporation, markets and launches the Delta II.

Pratt & Whitney acquired Rocketdyne in 2005 and produces the Delta II main engine, RS-27A.

Aerojet builds the highly reliable Delta second stage engine, the AJ10-118K.

ATK produces the GEM-40 booster motors used on Delta II and the GEM-46 motors developed for Delta III and now used on Delta II-Heavy. Since its aquisition of Thiokol in 2001, ATK has also built the Star 48B and Star 37FM solid motors used as Delta II third stages.

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History of the Delta Launch Vehicle by Kevin S. Forsyth