Tag Archives: ULA

Delta IV (5,4) launches WGS-9 successfully

Delta IV pulled off another flawless launch from Cape Canaveral today, placing the Wideband Global SATCOM-9 satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit.  WGS-9 is a military commsat operated by the United States Air Force but jointly procured by five other nations: Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and New Zealand.  This was not the first WGS satellite paid for by a foreign power; WGS-6 was contributed by Australia.  And ground stations have been paid for partially by partner nations, who, again, receive bandwidth in proportion to their investment.  USAF is moving towards launch of WGS-10 later this year, but that is expected to be the final element of the constellation, at least int the forseeable future.

This was the 35th flight of Delta IV, and the 108th successful Delta program launch in a row.  This flew in the 5,4 configuration — 5 meter fairing, 4 solid rocket motors.  Single-core Delta IV is expected to retire by the end of 2018, with only the Delta Heavy continuing on, alongside the Vulcan rocket that will be ULA’s next offering (intended to replace both Delta IV and Atlas V).

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Atlas V successfully delivers NROL-79

Atlas V has put another notch in their impressive belt of successful missions.  It’s not a cheap rocket, but it is certainly reliable.  It’s an interesting launch to watch; the rocket seems to practically crawl out of Vandenberg.  This is the lightest variant of Atlas V, and from the performance I’d guess the payload/orbit is right at the limits of its capacity without boosters.  Makes it kind of fun to watch.  😉

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Atlas V has successfully lifted off with SBIRS GEO 3!

An Atlas V in its base 401 configuration placed the SBIRS GEO 3 military early-warning satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit this evening:

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EchoStar 19 successfully launched by Atlas V

Atlas V chalked up another successful mission today, blasting off from Cape Canaveral in the 431 configuration (4-meter fairing, 3 solid boosters, single-engine Centaur).  The payload was EchoStar 19, a commercial commsat that will be operated by HughesNet to provide high speed satellite Internet service across North America.  It’s unusual to see the highly reliable but expensive Atlas V flying a commercial mission; in this case, HughesNet selected the vehicle due to rapid availability.  They are currently constrained from growing their service due to all of their existing spot-beams being at full capacity; EchoStar 19 will provide 160 more spot-beams, allowing them to grow beyond their current million customers.  The spacecraft is expected to enter service in March, following on-orbit testing, and will join HughesNet’s two other spacecraft, EchoStar 17 and Spaceway 3.

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100th EELV launches successfully, with a new generation for weather forecasting

An Atlas 541 (the second-heaviest configuration Atlas V in active use) blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Station today, ferrying the massive GOES-R weather satellite into its geosynchronous transfer orbit.  This was the one hundred launch of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Program, created by the USAF in the 1990s and ultimately producing the Atlas V (by General Dynamics, then Lockheed Martin) and the Delta IV (by Boeing).  It is not likely to ever reach its 200th flight; both vehicles are due to be replaced by a newer rocket, the Vulcan, in a few years.  But the program has enjoyed a remarkable success rate — 98 flawless flights, 2 ending in suboptimal orbits.  That is an exceptionally rare success rate in rocketry.

The spacecraft, operated by NASA on behalf of  the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is the first of a fleet of four next-generation geosynchronous weather satellites; total cost of the program, including development and operation, is $11 billion.  But it’s an enormously valuable investment, because these satellites will be equipped like no other weather satellites.  They will be able to complete

Once it reaches its perch, GOES-R will become GOES-16.  (They do not receive their numbers until they successfully arrive in orbit.)  It will then spend a year sitting at 89.5 degrees west, undergoing testing for its commissioning phase.  It will eventually be moved to the primary GOES perches, as either GOES-East or GOES-West.  Those two positions are currently held by GOES-13 and GOES-15.  GOES-14 is also still in orbit, currently biding its time as an on-orbit spare.  Given the enormous amounts of money involved, and the absolutely critical nature of the data these spacecraft deliver, NASA and NOAA both want them up well in advance of them going into service, just in case.

GOES-R is much more advanced than its predecessors.  It carries advanced space weather sensors, in recognition of the fact that space weather forecasting has become enormously important both to our sensitive power grid and the many spacecraft we depend upon, the first-ever lightning imager designed to operate from geostationary orbit, a camera that can complete a full-disk image in just five minutes (fast enough to create detailed animations useful in local weather forecasting), and much more.  It’s so packed with revolutionary new instruments that scientists are excited just to find out what they can do with the gargantuan flood of data these spacecraft will produce.  It’s going to be fun to see what they come up with!

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Atlas V launches with WorldView 4, and Soyuz MS-03 rolls to the pad

Here are some pretty rocket videos to enjoy.  😉  First, from last week, the Atlas V launch of the WorldView 4 commercial imaging satellite, from Vandenberg AFB:

And then, in preparation for launch this week, here’s the Soyuz MS-03 rocket stack rollout at Baikonur Cosmodrome:

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NROL-61 carried into orbit by Atlas 5

First off, many apologies for the lack of posts recently; I went to an airshow over the weekend, came home to piles of work, and then got sick.  But I’m back in top form now!  And to kick the blog back off, here’s the launch of NROL-61 aboard Atlas V earlier today, marking the 135th consecutive successful Atlas flight.  NROL-61 is a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.  Nevertheless, ULA was able to stream excellent footage including rocketcam imagery up to the point of payload fairing jettison and upper stage ignition, the traditional point for ending broadcast of classified launches.  (Amateur satellite hunters will find the payload in orbit soon enough, but the NRO doesn’t like to make it too easy.)

The NRO did release the mission patch, which for today’s flight features a cheerful lizard mascot named Spike clinging to the Atlas V, whose vapor trail originates in Florida.

NROL61patch-

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