Monday, March 07, 2011

Delta IV on track for Friday launch

Less than a week after launching a military mini-shuttle atop an Atlas V rocket, United Launch Alliance says a Delta IV booster is on track to send a classified spy satellite into orbit at 5:57 p.m. Friday.

The preliminary forecast at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station look good, with an 80-percent chance of favorable weather Friday and conditions even better over the weekend.

As is standard with secret National Reconnaissance Office payloads, the launch window's full duration is not being released. 

ULA's launch broadcast will cut off four minutes into flight, typically after separation of the payload fairing is confirmed. 

If preparations continue on schedule, the 330-foot mobile service tower at Launch Complex 37 will roll back to reveal the 21-story rocket at 2:15 a.m. Friday.

The launch will be ULA's third of an NRO spacecraft since last November. The last two were lifted by heavy versions of the rocket, on Nov. 21 from the Cape and Jan. 20 from California.

Friday's mission, featuring the name "Gryphon," as shown in the artwork, will use a medium configuration vehicle with a single common core booster supported by two strap-on solid rocket motors.

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