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History of the Delta Launch Vehicle



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18-Nov-17 | JPSS-1 success!

NOAA’s JPSS-1 Earth environmental observer was launched in the early morning hours of Saturday, 18 November. The two-stage Delta II vehicle, marking its 99th consecutive success,  also delivered five secondary CubeSat payloads into orbit for investigations by various universities.

JPSS-1 is the first of a new generation of polar-orbiting satellites to monitor Earth’s atmosphere, ozone layer, and radiation reflectance. It is a follow-on to the Suomi NPP satellite (Delta 357) which itself was a bridge from previous EOS missions including Aqua (Delta 291) and Aura (Delta 306).

Two launch attempts were scrubbed earlier in the week for various reasons, and ULA postponed a third attempt until upper level winds could come within acceptable limits.

The launch manifest contains one more Delta II, which is expected to launch ICESAT-2 some time in 2018. After that one complete vehicle will remain, which is rumored to be destined for a museum somewhere.


15-Nov-17 | JPSS-1

Today has seen the second scrubbed launch attempt for NOAA’s JPSS-1 Earth environmental observer. Tuesday’s early-morning attempt was scrubbed moments after coming out of the T-minus 4 minutes hold due to an anomalous voltage reading during first stage engine slew checks, along with boats in the offshore exclusion area. Today, upper level winds (in excess of 100 knots) were above acceptable limits. ULA is working a 24-hour turnaround but from the main loop discussion leading up to the second scrub it sounds like the upper level winds will continue to be out of limits for at least the next 48 hours.


30-Jan-15 | Delta II delayed again

The January 30 launch attempt for SMAP was postponed when some loose insulation was found on the first stage. This is a not-uncommon occurrence and is usually a quick patch job to repair. The next attempt is set for Saturday morning.


29-Jan-15 | Brief return

Yes, it has been an awfully long time since a fresh posting. This is the obvious consequence of 1) the Delta II program winding down to a very sporadic last few flights, and 2) me having paying gigs that take precedence over this labor of love. So, in brief:

Today’s launch of Delta flight 370 was scrubbed before release of the T-minus 4 minute hold due to upper level winds. A 24-hour turnaround is expected to have a 90% chance of favorable conditions. The United Launch Alliance two-stage Delta Med-Lite vehicle will carry NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive environmental monitoring satellite into a polar orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base. As ever, SpaceflightNow.com will carry live coverage.


03-Oct-11 | Delta II reaches the on-ramp

NASA has announced the modification of its NASA Launch Services (NLS) II contract with United Launch Services, putting Delta II back on the menu. Parts for five Delta II vehicles have already been manufactured, and are now in storage; this contract modification will enable ULS to offer them to NASA for launch services between now and June 2020. [NASA Contract Release C11-044, 30-Sep-11]

The announcement means that the Delta II era might last beyond the launch of NPP, currently slated for 27 October. Of course, since the production line is out of commission, these five vehicles will be the last—but at least they have a chance to serve their purpose, rather than gather dust. Any remaining Delta II launches are expected to take place at Vandenberg’s SLC-2W.


11-Sep-11 | Delta flight 356 – GRAIL

A Delta II-Heavy lifted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Saturday, 10 September, sending NASA’s Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission on its way to the Moon.

More


08-Sep-11 | Scrub!

A strong shear in the upper level wind conditions has led to a 24-hour turnaround for NASA’s Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission to the Moon. The next launch opportunity is on Friday, 9 September, with two instantaneous launch windows at 12:33:25 and 13:12:31 UTC.

Update: Friday’s attempt has been postponed “to allow additional time to review propulsion system data from Thursday’s detanking operation.” Launch windows for Saturday, 10 September, are 12:29:45 and 13:08:52 UTC. The weather report for that day gives a 60% chance of conditions favourable for launch, an improvement over Thursday and Friday’s 40%.


15-Aug-11 | Next launch

The next Delta II launch will send NASA’s Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission toward the Moon. There, GRAIL will “create the most accurate gravitational map of the Moon to date, improving our knowledge of near-side gravity by 100 times and of far-side gravity by 1000 times.” This high-resolution map will help scientists to better understand the Moon’s internal composition. The twin spacecraft, GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B, completed their final inspections at the Astrotech facility on Tuesday, 9 August, and will be transported to Space Launch Complex 17 this week.

The two-stage Delta II Heavy launch vehicle has been stacked on pad 17B since 20 May, and pre-launch testing has been in work since then. The launch period opens on 8 September.


01-Jul-11 | Mission round-up

In lieu of immediate Delta II action—the next launch will occur no earlier than September—here is a round-up of news about current missions that began with successful Delta II launches. More


10-Jun-11 | Delta flight 354 – SAC-D/Aquarius

A two-stage United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket lifted off into a thick fog early this morning, Friday, 10 June 2011, from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. Aboard was the SAC-D/Aquarius spacecraft, a joint mission of Argentina’s National Commission on Space Activities (CONAE) and NASA. The launch vehicle performed as expected, placing the spacecraft into a circular, sun-synchronous polar orbit some 56 minutes after launch. Official liftoff time was 14:20:13 UTC.

Satelite de Aplicaciones Cientificas-D, the second SAC spacecraft to launch aboard a Delta II, is festooned with several Earth-sensing scientific instruments supplied by different countries. Primary among these is NASA’s Aquarius sensor, which will gauge ocean surface salinity levels. Data from Aquarius is expected to fundamentally impact our understanding of the world’s oceans in terms of circulation, climate, and water cycle.

This was the 94th consecutive successful launch by Delta II, a world-record series of successes dating back to May 1997. It was the first of three planned launches for Delta II this year—all of them for NASA, and the final flights on the schedule. Five Delta II vehicles remain in storage, complete and awaiting assignment.


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