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15-Mar-08 | Delta flight 332 – NAVSTAR IIR-19 (M6)

A Delta II 7925 early this morning continued Delta’s record-setting string of successful flights with a satellite for the U.S. Air Force’s Global Positioning System.

The weather at SLC-17A was fairly lousy for much of the evening as the terminal countdown got under way, with overcast skies and intermittent rain causing a brief delay to first stage oxidizer tanking operations. As the count continued, no major issues with the vehicle were worked. For a while the range was no-go for an issue this author believes was a risk of toxic fumes getting blown inland in a self-destruction event, but ultimately this was closed and the only delay was a one-minute COLA period at the opening of the fourteen-minute window.

The standard three-stage Delta II lifted off at 02:10 EDT (06:10 UTC), deploying the NAVSTAR IIR-19 satellite 68 minutes later. As commonly happens, a ratty telemetry signal late in the flight led to a brief delay in the declaration of mission success. Nevertheless, the rocket got the job done, extending Delta’s launch record to 80 successes in a row.

Delta II now has a 133 of 135 success rate, one of the best in the industry. Meanwhile, the NAVSTAR IIR-19 will fire its AKM within the next few days to enter Plane A, Slot 4, where it will replace IIA-15, a fifteen-year-old satellite that has more than doubled its design lifetime; IIA-15 still has some life left in it, and will be moved into a “storage” orbit as an available spare.

IIR-19 is the sixth “modernized” GPS satellite, which is upgraded with two additional encrypted military signals for improved accuracy and resistance to signal jamming, along with an added civilian signal. Two more NAVSTAR IIR(M) launches are scheduled for Delta II before the end of the year, at which time the GPS/Delta era will reach its conclusion. To date, all operational GPS satellites, some 47 including today’s launch, have flown aboard Delta II.

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