Second Boeing Delta 4 rocket erected on the launch pad

Posted: December 17, 2002

  Delta 4
The Delta 4 rocket arrives at launch pad 37B. Photo: Boeing/Carleton Bailie
Less than a month after the successful inaugural flight, the second Boeing Delta 4 rocket is now standing on the launch pad for a February blastoff carrying a military spacecraft to bolster the U.S. national security communications network.

Cradled on its motorized transporter, the assembled rocket was rolled out of Boeing's Horizontal Integration Facility Tuesday morning and driven the half-mile to pad 37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The rocket was precisely positioned and secured on the pad's erecting platform so the transporter could pull away. Two hydraulic lifting arms then slowly muscled the erector platform vertically to set the Delta 4 atop the launch table Tuesday evening.

Flying in the most basic of the five Delta 4 configurations, this two-stage "Delta 4 Medium" vehicle with no strap-on solid rocket motors is set for liftoff on the evening of February 2.

  Delta 4
A view from the mobile service tower looking at the Delta 4 rocket below. The RS-68 main engine is enclosed within the red cover. Photo: Boeing/Carleton Bailie
The rocket will loft the Defense Satellite Communications System A3 spacecraft to join an orbiting fleet of satellites that are crucial to providing secure, jam-resistant, high-data rate communications for the White House, U.S. embassies and military personnel around the globe.

It will be the first military mission of the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program.

The EELV effort was conceived to provide the U.S. with reliable and affordable launches of government and commercial satellites for the next two-decades. In addition to the successful debut of Delta 4 on November 20, the other EELV rocket -- Lockheed Martin's Atlas 5 -- made a flawless maiden voyage on August 21.

The Air Force has booked 22 launches on Delta 4 and seven on Atlas 5 over the next several years.

  Delta 4
The Delta 4 rocket rests on its supports atop the pad's erector platform. Photo: Boeing/Carleton Bailie
While the extensive post-flight data reviews into the first Delta 4 launch continue, no significant problems have been uncovered, officials said. Preparing the brand new pad 37B for another flight also has gone smoothly, clearing the way for Tuesday's rollout.

"This is a big day," Boeing chief launch conductor Rick Navarro said in an interview after the Delta 4 arrived at the pad. "This being the first EELV adds an extra level of excitement."

Boeing launch pad workers will spend the next few days performing the initial chores to ready the vehicle for its stay on the oceanfront complex before taking the holiday break.

  Delta 4
The Delta 4 goes vertical Tuesday night. Photo: Boeing/Carleton Bailie
"We will get the basic services connected -- the swing arms and the service masts -- and, in fact, will perform the first series of propulsion tests. Then we will secure for the holidays and then come back for the final processing," Navarro said.

Since this is only the second Delta 4 launch campaign, the company has allotted the time to run a full-up countdown simulation next month.

"We are still coming down our learning curve. We have allowed extra time for processing of this vehicle," Navarro said. "We don't have any of the first article tests. All of the proof of principle-type system and subsystem tests were taken care of with the first launch.

"We still have a countdown rehearsal, which we call the Wet Dress Rehearsal. That is still in the cards for mid-January, and that leads to an early February launch."

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