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History of the Delta Launch Vehicle

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16-Feb-07 | THEMIS scrubbed

THEMIS launch was scrubbed today. Upper level winds were found to be out of spec, and the hold was called moments before the terminal count was to resume at T-minus 4 minutes. A 24-hour turnaround is in work, with a Saturday launch slated between 23:01 and 23:19 UTC.

14-Feb-07 | THEMIS delayed by 24 hours

Launch of NASA’s THEMIS spacecraft has been pushed back by one day, to Friday 16 February. Thunderstorms at Cape Canaveral led to postponement of fuelling operations, preventing the second stage’s hypergolic propellants (Aerozine-50 and nitrogen tetroxide) from being loaded. The weather is expected to clear and forecasters are predicting an 80% chance of good conditions on Friday. (NASA ELV Status Report, 13-Feb-07, Spaceflight Now Mission Status Center, 13-Feb-07)

30-Jan-07 | STEREO completes lunar swing-by

NASA’s twin STEREO spacecraft have completed a delicate series of orbital manoeuvres, using the Moon’s gravity to send them into their operational orbits.  Both observatories passed the Moon on 15-Dec-06, which placed the “A” spacecraft into its orbit “ahead” of that of Earth.  The “B” spacecraft made a second lunar pass on 21-Jan-07 to enter its orbit “behind” Earth.  Controllers expect the craft to produce the first 3-D images of the Sun by April.  (JHU APL Press Release, 23-Jan-07)

25-Jan-07 | Mission schedule update

According to its mission website, NASA’s Widefield Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) will fly on a Delta II after all, reversing an announcement from three years ago. Planned as MIDEX-6, WISE will be the fifth MIDEX mission to fly if it launches as planned in November 2009.

Meanwhile, the Geospace Electrodynamic Connections (GEC) mission has been cancelled (or “moved outside the near-term [5-year] budget planning window”) due to budget constraints. It was intended to fly on a Delta II in September 2009.

21-Jan-07 | Next launch

The next launch will be NASA’s Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) spacecraft, due to launch from Cape Canaveral in mid-February. Using five identical satellites launched in the same flight, THEMIS will examine the Earth’s magnetosphere and its interaction with the solar wind from various points along the magnetotail.

21-Jan-07 | NRO L-21 may have failed

Reuters reports that a National Reconnaissance Office satellite, believed to be the one launched in December by the most recent Delta II, has suffered “a comprehensive failure” and is likely to be a complete loss. According to the article, “U.S. officials were working to reestablish contact with the satellite because of the importance of the new technology it was meant to test and demonstrate,” although what this new technology may be remains wholly unspecified. Because the Delta rocket delivered the spacecraft into its appropriate orbit, and the failure lies within the payload hardware, the launch is still considered a success.

21-Jan-07 | Mars Global Surveyor lost; mission ends

Having explored all possible options for regaining communications with the Mars Global Surveyor, NASA has conceded that the mission has been lost. (NASA Press Release, 21-Nov-06) Preliminary reports suggest that a combination of software and operator error allowed one solar panel to be turned against its hard stops, sending the spacecraft into safe mode. At that point it was oriented with its battery pointed toward the Sun; the battery overheated and expired. A formal review board has been convened to determine both the events and management processes that allowed this to occur. (NASA Press Release, 10-Jan-07)

Meanwhile, images from MGS continue to provide new discoveries, such as the annoucement that water still flows in brief spurts on Mars’ surface. (NASA Press Release, 06-Dec-06)

17-Jan-07 | Note from the editor

For 2007, the News page has been replaced with an RSS-active news feed. The news archives have been transferred into it.

15-Dec-06 | Delta flight 322 – NRO L-21

A two-stage Delta II launched from Vandenberg AFB on 14 December 2006, carrying a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. This was the first Delta launch for NRO since 2001’s GeoLITE, and Jonathan McDowell sums up the public’s knowledge of L-21 thusly: “In contrast to most secret launches, analysts appear to have little clue as to what this payload may be.” (JSR 575) This marked the first launch to be managed by the new United Launch Alliance, a joint effort of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Spaceflight Now filed a mission status report.

18-Nov-06 | Delta flight 321 – NAVSTAR IIR-16 (M3)

The third “modernized” replenishment satellite for the Global Positioning System was successfully launched on Friday, 17 November 2006, the second NAVSTAR in as many months. When it reaches operational status it will replace to replace NAVSTAR IIA-22, launched in August 1993 aboard Delta flight 222. Spaceflight Now has a mission status report of the launch.

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