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History of the Delta Launch Vehicle

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03-Mar-06 | FUSE operational

The Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) has returned to operational status after ten months offline, thanks to tenacious programmers and ingenious use of on-board equipment.  After the third of four reaction control wheels failed in December 2004, FUSE was left with insufficient attitude control.  Mission controllers found a way to use its magnetic torquer bars to provide control in two axes, while the remaining reaction control wheel stabilizes the third axis.  “It’s like we had three strong muscles originally, and could point FUSE wherever we wanted to,” said William Blair, FUSE’s chief of observatory operations. “Now we have to control the pointing with one strong muscle and two weak muscles. The revised control software is like a good physical therapist, teaching the satellite to compensate.”  Observations resumed on 1 November 2005.  FUSE launched aboard Delta 271 in June 1999. (Spaceflight Now, 25-Feb-06)

03-Mar-06 | Dawn mission cancelled

NASA has cancelled Dawn, a mission to visit two of the solar system’s biggest asteroids, Vesta and Ceres. The program was put on hold in October 2005 for an independent review, some time after project scientists had asked for an additional $40 million. Clearly the review board’s findings were not favourable; it is not known to this reporter how much of the project’s initial $371 million budget has already been spent on a spacecraft that will never fly. Dawn, part of the Discovery series* that includes such grand successes as Mars Pathfinder and last year’s Deep Impact (as well as the failed CONTOUR in 2002), was intended to launch later this year on a three-stage Delta II-Heavy. (, 02-Mar-06)

08-Feb-06 | Strike resolved

The strike of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers that interrupted work for over three months at both Delta launch sites as well as manufacturing centers in Huntington Beach, Calif., and Decatur, Ala., came to an end late last week as the union voted to accept a new three-year contract. Some concessions were made on both sides to close the deal, and Boeing is hoping to put any residual animosity aside and get the Delta program back on track.  After such a lengthy hiatus it will take a while to get organized and back up to speed, and no one involved intends to rush anything. Therefore, it will take until mid-February to determine a new launch schedule, and the next flight date is not expected until April at the earliest. (Spaceflight Now, 5-Feb-06)

15-Jan-06 | Strike continues

Delta launches continue to be delayed by a negotiation impasse between Boeing and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The strike, now into its third month, seems likely to cause a ripple effect throughout the 2006 schedule.

15-Jan-06 | Stardust success

The Stardust mission has come to a successful conclusion, as its sample return canister parachuted to a gentle landing in the Utah desert at 10:10 UTC on Sunday, 15 January 2006. Launched nearly seven years ago aboard Delta 266, Stardust has brought home samples from comet Wild-2, tiny particles which scientists believe may be as old as the solar system itself. The capsule is on its way to Johnson Space Center in Houston, where it will be opened. Meanwhile, NASA has put out an open call for volunteers to help spot the tiny motes embedded in Stardust’s aerogel collectors. Unlike distributed computing projects that harness unused computer cycles, Stardust@home will rely on the sharp eyes of its human participants.

18-Nov-05 | Strike continues

The machinists’ strike at Boeing continues to keep all Delta launches on hold. No word on the progress of negotiations, if any.

18-Nov-05 | Dawn told to “stand down”

Dawn, a NASA mission to visit two of the solar system’s biggest asteroids, Vesta and Ceres, has been told to stand down. Although budget constraints were cited as one of the reasons for the order, this does not necessarily mean the project is cancelled outright. An “independent assessment team” will review Dawn and file a report with NASA administration before a final decision is made. If the mission does move forward in the future, its launch aboard a Delta 7925-Heavy (previously scheduled for June 2006) should be expected to slip. (, 07-Nov-05)

04-Nov-05 | Strike puts Delta launches on hold

A strike by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, affecting employees at Boeing’s Huntington Beach, Calif., and Decatur, Ala., facilities as well as both Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg launch sites, has caused all pending Delta launch dates to be put on hold. This includes NASA’s CALIPSO and CloudSat missions, previously scheduled for 7 November, and probably NRO L-21, intended for later this month.

24-Oct-05 | Next launch

The next Delta launch will be NASA’s CALIPSO and CloudSat, riding aboard a Med-Lite 7420 with a Dual Payload Attach Fitting (DPAF). Launch was postponed from 26 October due to an issue with the flight termination system batteries aboard the Delta vehicle, and is now scheduled for no earlier than 7 November.

24-Oct-05 | 100,000 visits

Some time on Sunday, 23 October 2005, the hit counter for History of the Delta Launch Vehicle registered its 100,000th hit since the site first started keeping track, nearly eight years ago. Thanks for visiting!

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