Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., (Sept. 27, 2007) - United Launch Alliance successfully launched a Delta II Heavy expendable launch vehicle today from Space Launch Complex 17-B at 7:34 a.m., EDT carrying NASA's Dawn spacecraft. This launch marks the third ULA mission this year conducted for NASA.
Following a nominal one hour and two minute flight, the rocket deployed the spacecraft on its eight-year mission to study Ceres and Vesta, two asteroids residing in the vast asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn's goal is to characterize the conditions and processes of the solar system's earliest age by investigating in detail two of the largest protoplanets remaining intact since their formations.
"With the launch of Dawn, ULA is continuing to show its dedication to providing safe, cost-effective, reliable access to space for U.S. government missions," said Mark Wilkins, vice president of Delta Programs. "ULA has brought together the most talented professionals in the launch industry and we are honored to launch spacecraft, such as Dawn, supporting NASA's critical national mission to explore the universe."
Dawn is scheduled to be the first spacecraft to orbit two asteroids on a single voyage as it studies Ceres and Vesta. It will study Vesta beginning in July 2010 and Ceres beginning in August 2014.
The ULA Delta II Heavy 7925-H configuration vehicle featured an ULA first stage booster powered by a Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RS-27A main engine and nine Alliant Techsystems (ATK) strap-on solid rocket motors. An Aerojet AJ10-118K engine powered the second stage. A spin-stabilized Star-48B solid-rocket motor built by ATK boosted the third stage. The payload was encased by a 9.5-foot-diameter composite payload fairing.
The Delta II Heavy features the most lift capacity of any of the ULA Delta II vehicles, with a lift capacity to geosynchronous transfer orbit of 4,550 pounds - a 10 percent gain over a conventionally equipped Delta II. The nine 46-inch-diameter solid rocket motors attached to the first stage of a Delta II heavy contrast with the standard nine 40-inch-diameter units used on conventional Delta II launches.
ULA began processing the Delta II Heavy launch vehicle in Decatur, Ala., nearly two years ago. In April, the first stage arrived from Decatur, followed by the second stage later that month. The vehicle was erected on the stand at Pad 17-B, May 28, with solid rocket motor installation completed in mid-June. Hundreds of ULA technicians, engineers and management worked to prepare the vehicle for the Dawn mission.
ULA's next launch, currently scheduled for No earlier than Oct. 9, is the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite for the Air Force aboard an Atlas V from Space Launch Complex 41 at CCAFS. The launch window is 8:22-9:33 p.m. EDT.
ULA program management, engineering, test and mission support functions are headquartered in Denver, Colo. Manufacturing, assembly and integration operations are located at Decatur, Ala., Harlingen, Tex. and San Diego, Calif. Launch operations are located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
For more information on the ULA joint venture, visit the ULA website at www.ulalaunch.com, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321).
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