Delta 4 Launches WGS-9 SATCOM Military Satellite

A Delta IV rocket carrying the WGS-9 SATCOM US Military satellite was launched successfully from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.  The Delta IV WGS-9 SATCOM satellite will provide the US Military with enhanced capability to contact troops in the field.

This mission was launched aboard a Delta IV Medium+ (5, 4) configuration. This has a 5m diameter payload fairing for larger payloads, and 4 Graphite-Epoxy Motors (GEM-60s) strap-on boosters to provide the required thrust.

This was ULA’s 3rd launch of 2017 and the 118th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

Delta IV IGNIGITION!!!
Delta IV IGNIGITION!!!
Main Delta IV Main Engine Start
Main Delta IV Main Engine Start
DELTA IV LAUNCH
DELTA IV LAUNCH
DELTA IV has Cleared the Tower
Close Up View of Delta IV rockets
Delta IV Burning 2,000 lbs of Fuel Every Second!!
Delta IV Solid Rocket Motor (SRM) Jettison After Just Over 2 minutes into the flight

Atlas V rocket configurations

The United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket (AV023) carrying the NROL-38 classified military satellite will launch tomorrow (20th June 2012) in the 401 configuration. Sounds impressively scientific, but what EXACTLY does that mean?

The First digit indicates the diameter (in metres) of the payload fairing, and always has a value of either 4 or 5. For the NROL-38 mission the payload fairing is 4 metres in diameter.

The second digit indicates the number of solid rocket boosters attached to the base of the rocket, and can range from 0 through 3 for the 4 metre fairing, and 0 through 5 with the larger 5-metre fairing. The Atlas V carrying NROL-38 mission has no additional solid rocket boosters.

The third digit represents the number of engines on the Centaur upper stage. This can be either 1 or 2. This particular Atlas 5 has 1 Centaur upper stage engine.

Atlas 5 400 series
Atlas 5 400 series

The Atlas 5 rocket is a very capable and reliable rocket, having had 29 successes of its 30 flights so far. Atlas first stage propulsion is provided by an RD-180 engine. This engine provides a single engine with 2 thrust chambers. It burns RP1 (Rocket Propellant 1 – highly purified kerosene) and liquid oxygen and provides 3,827 kN (Kilonewtons) of thrust at sea-level.

The Atlas 5 rocket is capable of carrying between 9 and almost 15 tonnes into low Earth orbit, and between 4 1/2 and 7 1/2 tonnes into a geosynchronous transfer orbit (dependent on exactly which configuration is used). It’s two designated launch facilities are at Launch Complex 41 (LC-41) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Launch Complex 3 (SLC-3) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Recent missions that have used an Atlas 5 rocket include, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Solar Dynamics Observatory, Boeing X-37B, Juno,

The Atlas V has cleared the tower

Atlas V during planned 10 minutes hold

and the Mars Science Laboratory

Atlas V carrying Mars Science Laboratory
Atlas V carrying Mars Science Laboratory

X37-B lands after monumental stay in space

Perhaps taking some of the shine off the Chinese launch today, the X37-B launch vehicle landed today (Saturday 16th June) at Vandenburg Air Force Base in California at 09:48 EDT after nearly 469 days (15 months) in orbit.

This was only the second flight of the military launch vehicle and smashes the previous test flight record (225 days) of the inaugural flight of the X37-B back in 2010. It was launched, in a mission designated USA-226, aboard an Atlas V rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on 5th March 2011. The mission was classified and described by the U.S. military as an effort to test new space technologies. In late November 2011, the U S Air Force announced that it would extend the second mission of the X37-B beyond its 270-day duration.

OTV-2 launch (Atlas V carrying X37-B)
OTV-2 launch (Atlas V carrying X37-B)

Total mission elasped time at “wheel stop” was 468 days, 13 hours and 2 minutes. The craft orbited the Earth more than 7,000 times.
X37-B after touchdown
X37-B after touchdown

X37-B soon after landing
X37-B soon after landing

The X37-B craft is loosely based on the larger American Space Shuttle, carries no crew, and is a fully autonomous vehicle, capable of landing itself with no human intervention. Being almost 30 ft (9 metres) long, it is sent into orbit on top of an Atlas V rocket

X-37B inside payload fairing of Atlas V before launch
X-37B inside payload fairing of Atlas V before launch

The project was initially conceived by NASA,in conjunction with the US Air force, but due to budgetary contraints and other factors the project became the sole responsibility of the Department of Defence in September 2004. The nature of the mission was highly classified, with very few details being made available to the public.