Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

Boeing sets sail with world's newest rocket ship
Posted: Dec. 16, 1999

  Delta Mariner
Delta Mariner will be christened and launched in a ceremony at the Halter Marine Shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Photo: Boeing
Today a 312-foot rocket ship will be launched from the banks of the Pascagoula River in Mississippi.

The Motor Vessel (M/V) Delta Mariner, built by Halter Maritime in its shipyard in Pascagoula for Foss Marine of Seattle Wash., will ferry Boeing Delta 4 rockets from Decatur, Ala., to launch sites in Florida and California.

"Over the past 12 months, we've watched many significant milestones in our Delta 4 program," said Mike Kennedy, Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle/Delta 4 vice president. "This is the perfect milestone with which to end the year, because the Delta Mariner ties all of those events together.

"From the production facility we brought online in Decatur, to the launch pads we're building at Cape Canaveral (Air Station, Fla.), and Vandenberg (Air Force Base, Calif.), and the accomplishments of our Alliant Techsystems and the Boeing Rocketdyne partners, we are continuing to progress toward a first launch in 2001."

Alliant Techsystems in Iuka, Miss., is building large composite structures used to assemble the Delta 4 family of launch vehicles in Decatur. While in November, another division of Alliant Techsystems completed the first test firing of the solid rocket motors that will be used on the Delta 4 M+ variants.

At the same time, the Boeing Rocketdyne Division activated and put into use two test stands at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Stennis, Miss., for the testing of the Delta 4 main engine, the RS-68. Boeing is also assembling the main engines for the Delta 4 launch vehicles in a new facility at Stennis.

The centerpiece of the Boeing Delta 4 program is the 1.5-million square-foot production facility in Decatur, Ala. The facility was officially brought on line earlier this year with the assembly of the first Delta 4 common booster core.

Common booster cores are the building blocks of the Delta 4 family of launch vehicles, and house the rocket's main engine, fuel tanks, and first-stage avionics. All five of the Delta 4 variants use at least one CBC; the Delta 4 Heavy uses three.

Delta Mariner
Delta Mariner in Pascagoula where it was built. Photo: Boeing
Designed to work on inland waterways and the open ocean, the Delta Mariner will transport space-bound hardware from Decatur, down the Tennessee Tombigbee waterway through Mobile Bay and into the Gulf of Mexico, before rounding the Florida peninsula toward the Cape or transiting the Panama Canal en route to California.

Delta 4 common booster cores, the size of commercial airplane fuselages, will be carried on and off the ship by specialized mobile transporters via the ramp in the stern of the vessel. The rocket's second-stages will be carried in specialized climate-controlled containers onboard the vessel. The vessel also will transport the payload adapters, which attach the spacecraft to the rocket, and the protective shells that surround the spacecraft, known as fairings.

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