Successful ULA Delta 4 Heavy launch today

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The competition heats up: ULA today successfully launched a U.S. National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite, using what is presently the world’s most powerful rocket, the Delta 4 Heavy.

In many ways, this rocket’s launch, which you can see in the video embedded below the fold, gives a rough idea of what a Falcon Heavy launch will look like, since the rockets have somewhat similar configurations.


  • wodun

    A lot of suits and ties.

  • Alex

    How few launches in total were performed by Delta IV? What for a waste of money for expensive development, if there is no further need for it and its engine RS-68.

  • wayne

    Alex: Slightly out of my realm– but isn’t this the 32nd flight, since 2002, of the Delta IV?

    Anyone know how much this spy-satellite weighs??

    Too bad we weren’t allowed to watch more than a few minutes of actual launch video. (I have no doubt the Russians & Chinese already have the blueprints for this satellite.)

    wodun: yeah, I noticed the suit & tie thing as well, & was thinking something snarky. But, as someone who wears a tie, but not a suit, I can’t fault them just-for-that. (But I get your point!)

  • wodun

    Wayne, I was just noting the difference between corporate cultures. I like what Bruno has done with ULA and embraced PR. Suits and ties match their prefered image of professionalism and experience. But many of those people didn’t look comfortable, like they regularly wear them. I wonder if that is good or bad for their performance?

    Alex, I happen to think the US military having access to larger launchers is good and worth the expense. It was probably the best way to go at the time, even if it isn’t now. In any case, development costs are sunk.

  • wayne

    I understand, didn’t mean to overthink your observation and insert my biases.
    Yes, do agree with you about the PR. The entire video is well done & the people did present an image of professionalism/experience. (Unfortunately it was a spy-satellite & they couldn’t show all the cool camera angles from on-board & more actual video.)
    Very impressive nonetheless!
    For me, it did have a more “Nasa-esque” feel, than a SpaceX launch.

    >Good point on sunk-costs. Once something gets built, those resources are gone, for good or bad.

  • Christopher

    While always impressed with turbo pump powered liquid fuel rockets. In the past, most were not throttleable. I noticed the engines on the delta heavy were throttled up and down during its ascent. Does any one know the mechanics behind this process? Maybe a valve system on the turbo pump discharge or a reduction of fuel to the gas generator that powers the turbo pump turbine? Obviously the PSI of the Fuel / LOX supply must be regulated somehow.

  • pzatchok

    On a standard automotive racing turbo system they run a waste gate(over pressure valve) and over pressure line from the outlet side of the turbo to the inlet side.

    This lets the turbo keep a high constant speed and high pressure and thus eliminates any ‘turbo lag’.

    This would let them run a valve after the pump and before the engine.
    On a car this would be the intake valve or butterfly valve.

    They might have a similar system giving them the ability to throttle the engine.

  • mkent

    “How few launches in total were performed by Delta IV?”

    This was the 32nd launch of the Delta IV. There have been 23 Medium launches. This was the 9th launch of the Heavy. If I recall correctly, there are about 15 or so still left on the manifest.

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