In this handout provided by NASA, The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 12, 2018 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. ( Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images )
After months of delays, a classified and mysterious US spy satellite has been successfully launched into then Earth’s orbit on top of a massive Delta IV Heavy rocket.
US spy satellite launched into orbit
The blast off took place in Cape Canaveral, Florida at around 8pm EST on December 10. It carried its payload for the United States National Reconnaissance Office.
Experts have then speculated, all based on the size and trajectory of the rocket, that it carried the latest in the Orion large signals intelligence satellites, according to Space.com
The program began in the mid-nineties. The program is created to be able to listen in to electronic communications for a maximum of 22,000 miles above the surface of the Earth. The successful launched followed five cancelled launches this year, including the one in August in what was then called a “hotfire abort.”
This event involves a rocket’s engines undergoing ignition, but then cut-off mere moments before lift-off. This is rare for space launches, and it is a first for the Delta IV class.
United Launch Alliance, the space launch provider that is in charge of the mission, stated that the incident is due to a failure of a support equipment.
But still, even after the piece was replaced, the rocket had another failed launch sequence a month later, with the countdown aborted only 7 seconds before blast-off.
United Launch Alliance’s “Heavy” configuration of the Delta IV rocket is the most powerful launched in the firm. However, it is only second to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy.
The Delta IV Heavy was introduced in 2004 and it has been used 11 times since them. It was used mostly to undertake classified missions like the orbital delivery that was done on December 10.
Now the United Launch Alliance reportedly has four more missions planned for the Heavy rockets, after which the whole Delta rocket family will be retired and will be replaced with the currently developed Vulcan rockets. The lift-off of the Delta IV Heavy on December 10 is not the only rocket launch that happened this week.
SpaceX’s Starship launch
On December 9, Elon Musk’s SpaceX conducted a test flight of its prototype named Starship. It successfully reached its target altitude of 7.8 miles before exploding after landing.
The Starship is an early iteration of the technology that Elon Musk hopes to use in order to put humans on Mars. It soared over South Texas on December 9 in the highest and riskiest test flight of the vehicle yet, according to CNN.
Starship, or Starship SN8, climbed though the air for almost five minutes as it flew out over the Gulf of Mexico before it steered itself back to the launch site. SpaceX hoped that it would make a pinpoint landing the same way that the company lands its Falcon9 rockets.
The whole flight was made to help SpaceX get data about how SN8 could reenter the Earth’s atmosphere after it returns from a mission and steer itself to a precise landing spot, according to CNET.
United Launch Alliance is now planning to launch a Falcon 9 rocket that will carry a SiriusXM broadcasting satellite, from a launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, just miles from the one previously occupied by Delta IV Heavy.