United Launch Alliance (ULA) has launched its 12th Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The powerful rocket has taken off from Space Launch Complex-37. It has served as a launchpad for intelligence satellite NROL-44. It has successfully hoisted the spy satellite for the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). As per the experts, the launch has gone without a hitch after months of delays due to hardware issues and issues with the launchpad infrastructure. This mission has been slated to be launched on 26 August. For the first time, the launch has been delayed for 24 hours as per the customer’s request, and later the mission has been halted due to an issue with a critical ground pneumatics control system. For the third time, scientists have tried to launch the mission and it has been canceled at the last second. In September, the mission has been halted due to a problem with the launch pad’s swing arm retraction system. Towards the end of September, the mission has been aborted once again as the rocket’s onboard computer has identified a sensor defect. These issues have resulted in months of delay in the launch of the much-anticipated mission.
Astronomers have been able to see a clear sky as stars, constellations and even Mars have been visible from the launch pad during the launch of the mission. The ULA has been making its next-generation launch pad called the Vulcan Centaur. The company is planning to discontinue its Atlas and Delta Rocket families. In this case, only four Delta IV heavy rockets will remain. Out of these four rockets, two are scheduled to fly from California, and the remaining two will be used for additional missions taking off from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida before the end of 2023. The Delta IV Heavy rocket launches have been witnessing a series of delays more recently. Experts have said that the rocket looks majestic as it climbs to orbit due to its sheer weight and size. The Delta IV Heavy rocket is powered by three common core boosters and a cryogenic second stage. It produces around 2 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, said the experts. The triple booster rocket is fueled by a composition of super-chilled liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Liquid hydrogen is highly flammable, which allows the rocket to burn off any extra gas at least 14 seconds prior to liftoff. This feature generates a massive fireball, which is unique to the rocket.
The NROL-44 mission has been conceived last year when the rocket’s three common core boosters have arrived at the ULA facility at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Today’s launch has marked the sixth mission of this year, which has been carried out for ULA. It is the 142nd successful launch of the company since its start in 2002. As per the data, eight of the rockets have transported the payloads for NRO. It is the 385th rocket from the Delta family, which has flown since the Thor Delta in 1960. This rocket is a more suitable launch vehicle for the NRO because the rocket is ideal for its clandestine cargo. The Delta IV Heavy rocket is not the only heavy lifter available in the market, SpaceX as well as its own heavy rocket called Falcon Heavy.