Friday, January 20, 2012

Delta IV lifts SATCOM to orbit

Delta IV components. Credit:

Here we go... For the first U.S. launch of a satellite this year, United Launch Alliance (ULA) sent a Delta IV rocket into the Florida skies from Launch Complex SLC-37B at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Forty minutes later, the WGS-4 satellite separated from its stage and began orbiting. The Wideband Global Satcom 4 is a military satellite, first in a series of ten that will form a Defense Satellite Communications System. Other countries included in this defense system include Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

ULA operates Delta launches from Pad B of launch complex SLC (Space Launch Complex) -37.

SLC-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Historically, SLC-37 (originally LC-37) was used to test the first Saturn 1 and thereafter launched over a half dozen Saturn 1 and Saturn 1B rockets during the Apollo program. All of these Saturn rockets were unmanned, but were part of the testing required to make sure the equipment was ready to put astronauts into space and on their way to the Moon. Later, during the 1970's the complex was demolished. The complex was later rebuilt to launch DElta and Atlas advanced rockets for government missions. The Delta IV and Atlas V are in consideration as launch vehicles for the upcoming Orion space capsule.

Closer view of SLC-37B. I took this photo while standing at Launch Pad 34, location of the infamous fire onboard Apollo 1. Inside the tower can be seen a Delta rocket being readied. Photo taken in May 2011.

Last Apollo mission to lift off from LC-37B, was Apollo 5. This was an unmanned mission on a Saturn 1B rocket, designed to lift a test version of the Lunar Module into orbit without a crew.

Apollo 5 test mission patch.

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