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15-Apr-03 | SIRTF delay

The Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) has been delayed. Boeing and NASA have raised unspecified concerns over the Delta II-Heavy’s GEM-46 booster motors, which have flown on three Delta III flights but are untested on Delta II. (Spaceflight Now, 10-Apr-03)

According to Boeing, the larger and longer boosters increase the Delta II’s capacity by approximately 19 percent, the largest performance upgrade for Delta II since 1990 (when the GEM-40 motors were introduced). The Delta first stage required beefed-up structure and acoustic blanket modifications to accomodate the motors as well.

At the pad, the standard skin-and-stringer 9.5-foot-diameter fairing is in place, and the program team members in the TCC are monitoring the payload closely. SIRTF has until 7 May to get off the pad, or the vehicle will be destacked and replaced with the Delta II-Heavy for the second Mars Rover, which has a very tight launch window that only comes around every 26 months. (SLC-17B is the only east coast pad that can launch Delta rockets equipped with GEM-46 motors, as its flame trench and other support systems were updated specifically for the heavier motors and their different acoustic signature. SLC-17A, which is scheduled to launch the first Rover on 6 June, is also precluded for the second Rover because the 19-day gap between the two Rover flights is insufficient to stack the Delta and properly prepare a payload with such potential public-interest value.)

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