It is a busy week for two of the world’s most powerful launch vehicles
A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy booster stands ready to blast into orbit today from Vandenberg, A.F.B. in California, carrying a National Reconnaissance Office payload designated NROL-65, on a liftoff scheduled for 10:52 a.m. local, 1:52 p.m. EDT.
This will be the second launch of a Delta Heavy using the upgraded RS-68A engines, and the first to employ a new ignition timing sequence designed to minimize the hydrogen fueled fireball at the base of the pad which normally accompanies Delta Heavy launches. Under the new sequence, the starboard engines fires first, creating a draft which directs the gases from center and port engines down towards the launch platform. Today’s launch will place the classified payload into a polar orbit.
The next scheduled launch for a Delta Heavy should prove to be an interesting one, it is Exploration Flight Test -1, the first flight test for NASA’s Orion capsule, currently slotted for a September 2014 liftoff from Cape Canaveral.
Meanwhile, several hundred miles north of the equator in Kourou, French Guiana, an Arianespace Ariane V booster is being prepared for a Thursday launch carrying two satellites, Eutelsat 25B/Es’hail 1 and GSAT-7 to Geostationary Transfer Orbit. Launch is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. local, 4:40 p.m. EDT.