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Raumfahrt - Startvorbereitung für ULA Delta 4-Heavy mit NROL-44 Mission -Update

18.11.2019

ULA kicks off next Delta 4-Heavy launch campaign

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A hydraulic erector raised United Launch Alliance’s next Delta 4-Heavy rocket vertical at Cape Canaveral’s Complex 37 launch pad Friday. Credit: United Launch Alliance

The next Delta 4-Heavy rocket was raised vertical Friday at Cape Canaveral, signaling the start of a comprehensive series of pre-flight testing before liftoff next year with a top secret U.S. government spy satellite.

The triple-core rocket rolled out to Cape Canaveral’s Complex 37 launch pad Thursday, riding a 36-wheel, diesel-powered transporter to the pad from United Launch Alliance’s nearby Horizontal Integration Facility, ULA said in an update posted on its website.

ULA’s ground team assembled the Delta 4-Heavy rocket inside the Horizontal Integration Facility. The Delta 4-Heavy is the most powerful rocket currently in ULA’s fleet, with three first stage boosters bolted together, each powered by a hydrogen-fueled Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A main engine.

According to ULA, teams inside the HIF connected the Delta 4-Heavy’s three common booster cores, then installed the rocket’s upper stage to the forward end of the core stage. Workers also added the Launch Mate Unit, a structure at the base of the rocket that includes 12 hold-down bolts. Pyrotechnic charges fire to release the bolts at liftoff, allowing the Delta 4-Heavy to climb away from the launch pad.

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ULA crews transferred the Delta 4-Heavy rocket from the Horizontal Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to the nearby Complex 37 launch pad Thursday, Nov. 14. Credit: United Launch Alliance

The Delta 4-Heavy is set to launch a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, the agency which develops and owns the U.S. government’s intelligence-gathering spy satellites. The identify of the payload is top secret, and the mission is officially codenamed NROL-44.

The payload aboard the NROL-44 mission is likely heading for a high-altitude perch in geosynchronous orbit more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) above Earth, where the NRO operates surveillance satellites capable of eavesdropping on foreign communication signals.

If the NROL-44 payload is similar to previous NRO spy satellites launched into similar geosynchronous orbits, the Delta 4-Heavy rocket will deliver its spacecraft passenger directly to a circular orbit some 22,300 miles in altitude, a lofty orbit that typically requires three firings by the Delta 4’s upper stage RL10 engine.

ULA is building five more Delta 4-Heavy rockets for launches through 2023, all carrying payloads for the NRO that military officials say are unable to launch into their targeted orbits on any other rocket that is currently operational. Many of the NRO’s satellites are heavy and large — comparable to the size of a school bus — and are designed to be integrated with their rockets in a vertical configuration, rather than horizontally.

The launcher for the NROL-44 mission was raised vertical on its launch mount Friday. Teams positioned the rocket inside pad 37’s mobile gantry tower to prepare for a series of systems tests before the end of the year.

The Delta 4 team also plans to perform a wet dress rehearsal, during which ULA’s launch team will practice countdown procedures and fill the rocket’s cryogenic propellant tanks, then halt the launch sequence before engine ignition. The Delta 4’s tanks will then be drained, and the rocket will be readied to receive its top secret spy payload next year.

The NROL-44 mission is scheduled for launch in June, marking the 12th flight of a Delta 4-Heavy rocket since 2004, and the 41st Delta 4 mission overall.

The arrival of Delta 4-Heavy at pad 37 comes less than three months after ULA launched the final medium-lift Delta 4 variant Aug. 22. That mission signaled the retirement of the “single stick” Delta 4 rocket as the company focuses on flying the less expensive Atlas 5 launcher and developing the new Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle.

ULA plans another Delta 4-Heavy launch next September from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, also hauling a classified NRO payload into orbit. Once teams complete testing on the Delta 4-Heavy at Cape Canaveral, ULA will ready the Delta 4-Heavy at Vandenberg for its mission at Space Launch Complex 6.

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ULA crews transferred the Delta 4-Heavy rocket from the Horizontal Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to the nearby Complex 37 launch pad Thursday, Nov. 14. Credit: United Launch Alliance

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A hydraulic erector raised United Launch Alliance’s next Delta 4-Heavy rocket vertical at Cape Canaveral’s Complex 37 launch pad Friday, Nov. 15. Credit: United Launch Alliance

Quelle: SN

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Update: 12.01.2020

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ULA completes fueling test on next Delta 4-Heavy rocket

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A United Launch Alliance Delta 4-Heavy rocket stands at pad 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for a wet dress rehearsal. Credit: Dane Drefke / United Launch Alliance

United Launch Alliance engineers filled a Delta 4-Heavy rocket with super-cold liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants Friday at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during a practice countdown before the heavy-lifter’s scheduled liftoff in June with a top secret U.S. government spy satellite.

The countdown rehearsal Friday is known as a wet dress rehearsal. The mock countdown provided an opportunity for ULA’s launch team to practice launch day procedures and verify the Delta 4-Heavy’s readiness for flight, reducing chances of a problem cropping up during the real countdown.

About 465,000 gallons (nearly 1.8 million liters) of cryogenic propellants were loaded into the launcher during Friday’s mock countdown, starting with 330,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen for the Delta 4-Heavy’s three Common Booster Cores.

Another 120,000 gallons of liquid oxygen also flowed into the Common Booster Cores. An Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A main engine at the base of each booster will consume the hydrogen/oxygen propellant mixture in flight.

The Delta 4’s second stage, powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10 engine, was also loaded with a smaller amount of cryogenic propellant Friday.

The liquid hydrogen is stored at minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit, while the liquid oxygen is chilled to minus 298 degrees Fahrenheit.

Working from the Delta Operations Center near the Delta 4 launch pad, ULA’s launch team ran through pre-launch procedures before cutting off the countdown before the time the boosters’ RS-68A engines would ignite on launch day. The Delta 4-Heavy was then drained of propellant.

The wet dress rehearsal Friday came around two months after ULA ground teams erected the Delta 4-Heavy rocket — the most powerful vehicle in ULA’s inventory — on the launch mount at pad 37 in November.

The Delta 4-Heavy is set to launch a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, the agency which develops and owns the U.S. government’s intelligence-gathering spy satellites. The identify of the payload is top secret, and the mission is officially codenamed NROL-44.

The payload aboard the NROL-44 mission is likely heading for a high-altitude perch in geosynchronous orbit more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) above Earth, where the NRO operates surveillance satellites capable of eavesdropping on foreign communication signals.

If the NROL-44 payload is similar to previous NRO spy satellites launched into similar geosynchronous orbits, the Delta 4-Heavy rocket will deliver its spacecraft passenger directly to a circular orbit some 22,300 miles in altitude, a lofty orbit that typically requires three firings by the Delta 4’s upper stage RL10 engine.

Liftoff of the NROL-44 mission from pad 37 is scheduled for June. It will mark the 12th flight a Delta 4-Heavy rocket since 2004.

ULA has five more Delta 4-Heavy missions its manifest through 2023, all carrying payloads for the NRO that military officials say are unable to launch into their targeted orbits on any other rocket that is currently operational. Many of the NRO’s satellites are heavy and large — comparable to the size of a school bus — and are designed to be integrated with their rockets in a vertical configuration, rather than horizontally.

The final launch of a Delta 4 rocket in its “medium” configuration with a single first stage booster occurred in August 2019.

With the completion of the wet dress rehearsal Friday, ULA says the launch team will complete post-test securing on the Delta 4-Heavy rocket then “pause” activities at pad 37 until closer to the launch date later this year.

One of the final major tasks before liftoff will be the raising of the NROL-44 payload and its payload fairing atop the Delta 4-Heavy a few weeks before liftoff.

Ground crews from ULA will be busy with other missions during the coming months, including a series of up to four Atlas 5 launches planned through mid-2020 from Cape Canaveral.

Preparations to stack another Delta 4-Heavy rocket on its launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base are also expected to commence in the first half of this year, ahead of its planned liftoff with another NRO spy satellite payload in late 2020.

Quelle: SN 

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Update: 17.04.2020

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ULA delivers Delta 4-Heavy rocket to California launch base

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The three first stage boosters for a United Launch Alliance Delta 4-Heavy rocket are revealed April 5 after delivery on ULA’s RocketShip transport vessel. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Aubree Owens

United Launch Alliance’s rocket transport ship has delivered a Delta 4-Heavy rocket to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in preparation for launch of a U.S. government spy satellite late this year.

The Delta 4-Heavy’s three first stage boosters — known as Common Booster Cores — second stage and payload fairing arrived at Vandenberg on April 5 aboard ULA’s ocean-going transport vessel, named RocketShip.

The rocket delivery occurred during the global coronavirus pandemic, which has affected numerous sectors of the economy. But the federal government has deemed aerospace and defense-related businesses, including ULA, as essential functions that must continue operations during the public health crisis.

“We are continuing to work with our launch partners to ensure the Western Range remains postured to launch,” said Col. Anthony Mastalir, commander of the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base, located around 140 miles (225 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles.

“COVID-19 may be the threat at the forefront of everyone’s mind, and we are certainly taking all the necessary precautions to address that threat, but make no mistake, our national security still depends on our ability to launch rockets,” Mastalir said in a statement.

“We have been anticipating and planning this operation in coordination with ULA for several months,” said 1st Lt. Jasmine Toye, 2nd Space Launch Squadron mission integration manager. “No matter the circumstances, we have one job: perform the mission. Now is no different.”

ULA and military crews offloaded the Delta 4-Heavy rocket hardware over a six-day process and transferred the components to ULA’s Horizontal Integration Facility. Inside the horizontal hangar, ULA personnel will connect the rocket’s three Common Booster Core first stage elements to form a triple-body configuration and install the Delta 4-Heavy’s second stage over the next several months.

Then ULA will roll the rocket to Space Launch Complex-6, the Delta 4’s West Coast launch pad, and raise it vertical for a cryogenic fueling test and other checkouts. Finally, the Delta 4-Heavy’s classified National Reconnaissance Office payload and its launch shroud will be hoisted atop the rocket to cap assembly of the launch vehicle.

The Delta 4-Heavy rocket is being prepared for the NROL-82 mission scheduled for launch from SLC-6 at Vandenberg some time between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 of this year.

One of the Delta 4-Heavy rocket’s Common Booster Cores is offloaded from ULA’s RocketShip vessel April 5 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Aubree Owens

The Delta 4-Heavy rocket is built at ULA’s factory in Decatur, Alabama, and transported to launch sites at Cape Canaveral for Vandenberg aboard the company’s RocketShip vessel. For trips to Vandenberg, the RocketShip sails down river channels to the Gulf of Mexico, then traverses the Panama Canal and sails northward in the Pacific to the spaceport on California’s Central Coast.

The NROL-82 mission scheduled for launch late this year will be 13th flight of a Delta 4-Heavy rocket — the largest vehicle in ULA’s current fleet — since debuting in 2004.

Another NRO spy satellite mission, designated NROL-44, is scheduled for launch on the 12th Delta 4-Heavy rocket in June from Cape Canaveral. That rocket is already stacked on pad 37 at Cape Canaveral and has completed a cryogenic fueling test before receiving its classified spy satellite payload in the final weeks before launch.

There are five Delta 4-Heavy rockets in ULA’s backlog remaining to launch through late 2023, all slated to loft NRO spy satellites into orbit.

The Delta 4-Heavy’s Common Booster Cores are each powered by a hydrogen-fueled Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A main engine. The three engines will generate 2.1 million pounds of thrust during launch.

The rocket’s second stage has a single Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10 engine, which also burns super-cold liquid hydrogen.

Quelle: SN

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Update: 10.05.2020

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Spy satellite launch on Delta 4-Heavy rocket delayed to August

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File photo of a Delta 4-Heavy launch in June 2012. Credit: United Launch Alliance

The next flight of United Launch Alliance’s triple-barrel Delta 4-Heavy rocket has been delayed from June to late August, military officials said Friday.

The heavy-lift rocket will carry a classified National Reconnaissance Office payload into orbit, likely targeting a geosynchronous station more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) over the equator, where the NRO operates surveillance satellites capable of eavesdropping on foreign communication signals.

The mission was previously scheduled to launch some time in June, but has been rescheduled for Aug. 26, according to Col. Robert Bongiovi, head of the launch enterprise division at the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center.

Military officials did not disclose a reason for the two-month delay.

The Delta 4-Heavy rocket was transferred to Cape Canaveral’s Complex 37B launch pad last November, where ULA crews erected the launcher’s three first stage boosters and second stage on top of the launch deck.

In January, the Delta launch team loaded the rocket with around 465,000 gallons (nearly 1.8 million liters) of cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants during a countdown dress rehearsal. The launch team drained the rocket of propellants after the simulated countdown.

A hydraulic erector raised United Launch Alliance’s next Delta 4-Heavy rocket vertical at Cape Canaveral’s Complex 37 launch pad on Nov. 15, 2019, to begin final preparations for the NROL-44 mission. Credit: United Launch Alliance

Details about the Delta 4-Heavy’s payload is being kept secret by the NRO, the agency which develops and owns the U.S. government’s intelligence-gathering spy satellites. The mission is officially codenamed NROL-44.

If the NROL-44 payload is similar to previous NRO spy satellites launched into similar geosynchronous orbits, the Delta 4-Heavy rocket will deliver its spacecraft passenger directly to a circular orbit some 22,300 miles in altitude, a lofty orbit that typically requires three firings by the Delta 4’s upper stage RL10 engine.

The launch scheduled for Aug. 26 will mark the 12th flight a Delta 4-Heavy rocket since 2004.

ULA has five more Delta 4-Heavy missions its manifest through 2023, all carrying payloads for the NRO that military officials say are unable to launch into their targeted orbits on any other rocket that is currently operational. Many of the NRO’s satellites are heavy and large — comparable to the size of a school bus — and are designed to be integrated with their rockets in a vertical configuration, rather than horizontally.

The final launch of a Delta 4 rocket in its “medium” configuration with a single first stage booster occurred in August 2019.

ULA is also gearing up a Delta 4-Heavy launch later this year from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The rocket stages for that mission, designated NROL-82, recently arrived at Vandenberg from ULA’s factory in Alabama aboard a transport ship.

Quelle: SN

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