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21-Mar-04 | Delta flight 303 – NAVSTAR IIR-11

Flight number 303, the first Delta launch of 2004, took place yesterday at Cape Canaveral’s SLC-17B. The three-stage Delta II 7925 carried NAVSTAR IIR-11, a replenishment satellite for the USAF‘s Global Positioning System space segment.

A quiet countdown was interrupted with less than a minute remaining by a pressure alarm in the first stage nitrogen system. The launch team had a chance to show off their quick T-minus 4-minute turnaround skills and was able to launch at an official time of 12:53:00.409 EST, a minute ahead of the close of the 15-minute window.

Spacecraft separation came 68 minutes, 14 seconds later, into an 11,000-mile (apogee) transfer orbit. NAVSTAR IIR-11 will replace IIA-19, which has been on orbit for eleven years; a plaque mounted on IIR-11 celebrates the late Dr. Ivan A. Getting, a space pioneer who is “credited as the visionary behind GPS.”

Boeing announced this flight as “the 50th [GPS] satellite launched,” a number which includes the Block I experimental constellation as well as two launch failures (an Atlas E in 1981, and Delta 241 on 17 January 1997). Successful launches into the operational constellation now number 38. (Spaceflight Now, 20-Mar-04; Boeing Press Release, 20-Mar-04)


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