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History of the Delta Launch Vehicle

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Archive for 2006

02-Aug-06 | STEREO booster to be de-stacked

STEREO continues to be delayed, but remains at the top of the launch schedule for now. This mission has had a total of seven delays since April for a series of minor glitches, including a small hydrazine leak on the Observatory A spacecraft and a faulty launch pad crane that prevented booster motor stacking. Most recently, a leak in a second-stage oxidizer tank at Boeing’s Decatur facility (intended for launching THEMIS later this year) means that all identical tanks must be checked. Unfortunately this means the second stage of the vehicle currently on the pad at SLC-17B must be de-stacked and taken to the High Pressure Test Facility, pushing the launch back by more than a week. Stacking of the spacecraft, previously planned for last week, has been put on hold while the second stage is in testing.

23-Jun-06 | Delta flight 316 – MiTEx

Delta flight 316 successfully orbited an experimental military satellite on Wednesday, 21 June 2006. MiTEx, the Micro-Satellite Technology Experiment, consists of a pair of micro-satellites, each about 500 pounds (total payload weight is classified), to test “advanced space technologies” for DARPA, the Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The Delta II 7925-9.5 lifted off at 18:15 EDT {Official range liftoff time unknown—would welcome this information. -ed.} and delivered MiTEx into a geostationary transfer orbit less than 31 minutes later. An upper stage, developed by the Naval Research Laboratory and itself a piece of experimental hardware, will circularise the geostationary orbit within a few days of launch, and the primary mission is expected to last for a year after that.

23-Jun-06 | Next launch

The next Delta II launch will be NASA’s STEREO mission, expected no earlier than 22 July.  STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) is a pair of identical solar-imaging satellites that will be placed in widely separated orbits using a series of lunar swingbys.  This placement will allow, for the first time, stereoscopic (hence the acronym) three-dimensional images of coronal mass ejections.

28-Apr-06 | Delta flight 314 – CALIPSO / CloudSat

It was lucky number seven for Delta 314 this morning, as it delivered CALIPSO and CloudSat into orbit. After six previous scrubs, the two-stage Delta II rocket leapt from the pad at Vandenberg’s SLC-2W at an official liftoff time of 03:02:16.721 PDT and quickly vanished into a low-lying cloud bank. Infrared tracking cameras provided the only view of the remainder of the flight, their steady aim showing clearly the jettison of its 4 booster motors, MECO, first/second staging, second stage ignition, and payload fairing jettison. The “Big Crow” tracking aircraft, whose lack of refuelling support caused two scrubs earlier in the week, lost its telemetry lock with the Delta rocket and was unable to provide realtime data during the one significant event it was slated to cover, SECO-1. Unseen or not, the vehicle completed all its remaining tasks and deployed CALIPSO (at T+62:31) and CloudSat (at T+97:37) into their sun-synchronous delivery orbits. Over the next six weeks the satellites will be checked out and moved into their operational orbits, where they will join the “A-Train” — a fleet of Earth-observing satellites, moving in close formation in similar orbits, that includes Aqua (Delta 291) and Aura (Delta 306). Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO), jointly operated by NASA and CNES, will provide a global map of atmospheric aerosol particles. CloudSat will study the formation and function of clouds, answering some basic questions about how they generate rain and snow, to improve the science of climatology.

27-Apr-06 | Still ready to go

Boeing engineers have given the Delta II rocket a clean bill of health, stating that "unusual temperature sensor readings observed during the previous two launch attempts were primarily the result of higher temperature  pressurization rates and are not indicative of any defect in the sensor. The sensor does not require replacement and can fly as is." Another launch attempt is set for Friday morning at 10:02 UTC, with the weather forecast showing some ground fog and low visibility but nevertheless acceptable conditions.

26-Apr-06 | Scrubs 5 and 6

An attempt to launch CALIPSO and CloudSat on Thursday morning has already been scrubbed for the sixth time, due to a problem with a nitrogen sensor on the second stage of the Delta II rocket. The launch will now occur no earlier than Friday morning, pending resolution of the sensor issue. Earlier today, a dismal weather picture — thick clouds, high winds, and rain — led to the fifth scrub in six days for the dual payloads.

25-Apr-06 | Winds (4th scrub)

Tuesday morning brings the fourth scrub, this time for upper level winds being out of limits. A 24-hour turnaround is in work.

23-Apr-06 | Scrubbed for the third time

Sunday morning, and the third scrub in a row for CALIPSO/CloudSat, again due to problems with the refuelling aircraft.

22-Apr-06 | Scrubbed again

CALIPSO/CloudSat has been postponed until Sunday, 23 April. A refuelling plane needed to support a mobile telemetry aircraft over the Pacific Ocean was unavailable for a Saturday launch. The instantaneous window remains at 10:02 UTC.

21-Apr-06 | Launch scrubbed

Launch of the NASA-led dual missions of CALIPSO and CloudSat was scrubbed this morning with 48 seconds to go in the countdown.  Spaceflight Now’s Mission Status Center quickly reported a momentary loss of communication between the CALIPSO spacecraft and its ground support network at CNES in Toulouse, France, while a NASA Media Advisory later in the day stated the loss was of primary and backup phone lines between France and the Mission Directors Center at Vanderberg.  In any case, the drop-out meant a fateful call of “hold – hold – hold,” and with only an instantaneous launch window there was no time to reset to the T-minus four minute mark. Controllers expect to understand the comm glitch today, and are working toward another attempt tomorrow morning, Saturday, 22 April.

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