In one of its last flights, United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket launches Air Force satellite
By CHABELI HERRERA | The Orlando Sentinel | Published: March 15, 2019
ORLANDO, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — After working through several issues before launch, a United Launch Alliance rocket tore through the sky over Cape Canaveral on Friday night carrying a military satellite to space on one of its final missions.
The Space Coast’s third launch of the year saw a Delta IV rocket in a medium configuration carrying a Wideband Global SATCOM satellite developed by Boeing. The satellite is the 10th in a constellation that will provide connectivity for U.S. military communications around the globe.
But the launch came late in ULA’s two-hour, nine-minute launch window because of several anomalies that arose before liftoff.
Engineering teams first had to work through issues with the helium bottle pressure on the rocket’s first stage. Then an issue with NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System, which tracks the rocket and spacecraft through its ascent, delayed the launch further.
Finally, at 8:26 p.m., the Delta IV rocket took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s launch complex 37, finalizing another in a series of launches — all by ULA — of the Air Force satellites that began in October 2007.
“ULA is proud to be the exclusive launch provider for all 10 WGS missions,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of government and commercial programs, in a press release. “Our focus on mission success continually demonstrates that safely and reliably delivering these critical national assets is our highest priority.”
The launch was one of the last of this version of the 218-foot Delta IV. ULA is phasing out all of its single-core Delta IV rockets except for its heavy-lift Delta IV Heavy, which is comprised of three booster cores strapped together.
Delta IV in its basic configuration will only have one more launch this year of a next-generation GPS satellite before being retired.
ULA already phased out its Delta II rocket, the company’s workhorse, with a final launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in September. A Delta II rocket will soon join the others on display at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s Rocket Garden.
ULA’s Delta and Atlas V rockets will ultimately be replaced by the company’s Vulcan rocket, scheduled for a first launch in 2021.
The aim is to make ULA more flexible to compete with companies like SpaceX, which had a whopping 21 launches in 2018. ULA is scheduled to have seven launches this year, all but one of them from the Space Coast.