America's Largest Rocket Lofts Satellite from Vandenberg AFB
Photo Credit: Paul Corkery / ULA
An unmanned United Launch Alliance Delta 4-Heavy rocket lifted off from California's Vandenberg AFB to carry a classified payload designated as NROL-65 into a polar orbit. United Launch Alliance is a 50-50 partnership between Lockheed Martin and The Boeing Company. Click the image for the video of the launch.
The Delta 4-Heavy is presently the tallest US rocket in regular service. It is a heavy-lift version of the United Launch Alliance's Delta 4 booster.
The Delta 4 Heavy is actually a group of three boosters, each called a Common Booster Core, arranged in a line to give it a three-column look. A cutaway poster of this amazing launch vehicle is available for your classroom or squadron to include this more detail cutaway of the Common Booster Core.
Spaceflight Now reports that this configuration is capable of launching payloads of up to 24 tons to low-Earth orbit. It is capable of sending 11-ton payloads toward the geosynchronous orbits used by communications satellites. The Delta 4-Heavy can also loft 11-ton payloads on trans-lunar injection orbit routes toward the moon and 8.8-ton payloads on Mars-bound trajectories.
The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) will be launched aboard a Delta IV Heavy rocket in 2014 for an unmanned test flight into orbit.