Next Delta 2 rocket to carry sharp-eyed spacecraft
BY JUSTIN RAY
Posted: July 14, 2008;
Updated July 15 with revised launch time
Launch preparations are underway at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to ready a commercial Earth-imaging spacecraft for its deployment into orbit by a Delta 2 rocket.
"Our Gilbert team has worked diligently with GeoEye to prepare GeoEye 1 for service, and it is rewarding to see these efforts coming to fruition," said David Shingledecker, vice president and general manager of Integrated Space Systems, General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems.
United Launch Alliance technicians last week completed the on-pad assembly of the two-stage Delta 2 rocket that will haul the 4,300-pound satellite to space. The first stage was erected at the Space Launch Complex 2 pad on July 3, followed later by attachment of four strap-on solid boosters and the second stage. The rocket configuration is known as the Delta's 7420 version.
It was a quick turnaround for the launch pad, which hosted the successful June 20 liftoff of a Delta 2 carrying the joint U.S. and European oceanography satellite called Jason 2.
With GeoEye's rocket now stacked on the seaside complex, checkout of the Delta will be accomplished over the next few weeks. The satellite is scheduled for delivery to the pad in early August for attachment atop the second stage.
"Our launch next month marks the culmination of a great deal of dedication by an extraordinarily talented team. We will soon be able to make available to the U.S. government and others worldwide the best quality commercial imagery on the market," said Bill Schuster, chief operating officer of Dulles, Virginia-based GeoEye.
"GeoEye 1, once launched and operational, will further demonstrate the viability of the commercial imagery industry and our ability to provide our key customers the imagery needed to meet critical mission requirements."
A chief customer of GeoEye 1's imagery will be the U.S. government. A $500 million contract from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) helped finance construction and launch of the sophisticated satellite under the NextView program.
"The three specifications the NGA desires most are spatial resolution, geolocation accuracy and large-area coverage," said Cyndi Wright, NGA's NextView program manager. "As a mission partner, we believe GeoEye 1 will fulfill these requirements for NGA by providing highly accurate, extremely detailed Earth imagery for broad area coverage and updating geospatial foundational layers and mapping databases."
"GeoEye 1 is ready for service and demonstrates a level of maturity that can be efficiently repeated in the production of future imaging satellites," Shingledecker said.
GeoEye 1 will join the Ikonos satellite, which was launched from Vandenberg's Space Launch Complex 6 aboard a Lockheed Martin Athena rocket in 1999, to obtain nearly one million square kilometers of imagery each day.