A decision yesterday made by NASA to exercise an existing contract option to launch the Mars Exploration Rover 2 aboard a Boeing Delta II rocket in 2003 capped a banner year for the Boeing Delta program.
The spacecraft is scheduled for launch on a Delta II during a 21-day window that opens on June 27, 2003. The option being exercised is part of the NASA Launch Services (NLS) contract awarded to Boeing [NYSE: BA] in June.
The contract includes three firm launches and five options for launch services, along with a 10-year Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (ID/IQ) contract for Delta II, Delta III or Delta IV launch services. This is the first of the five options to be exercised. The 40th year of operation for the Boeing Delta team was full of major milestones for the entire Boeing Delta family.
"Looking back on the year, we are extremely pleased with the accomplishments of the Delta team," said Gale Schluter, vice president and general manager of Boeing Expendable Launch Systems.
"Our people, and our industry partners around the world, have made the Delta name recognizable as a leading space transportation program. As we move forward into next year, we not only have a full launch manifest, but we will be readying ourselves for the first Delta IV launch in early 2002."
According to Schluter there are 11 Delta II launches scheduled for 2001. Included in next year's manifest are seven NASA launches, three launches for the U.S. Air Force's Global Positioning System and one commercial launch.
The Delta II team began the year with the successful launch of four Globalstar satellites from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Fla. The launch concluded a two-year effort in which Delta II rockets carried 28 of the 52 satellites launched for the system.
The launch team continued its string of successes with three launches for the U.S. Air Force's Global Positioning System and two launches for NASA.
The final launch of the year involved a new dual payload attach fitting system in which the Delta II team integrated and launched two unique primary payloads for the first time, enabling Delta II to compete for payloads usually reserved for smaller launch vehicles.
The Delta III reached full operational status with the successful launch of a data- gathering mission using a simulated payload. Designated as the DM-F3, the launch included a 9,480-pound satellite to serve two purposes. First, the satellite, developed to match various characteristics of common communications satellites, allowed the Delta III team to evaluate payload/vehicle compatibility during flight for future Delta III missions. Second, the U.S. Air Force and the University of Colorado are utilizing the satellite to conduct tests to evaluate and improve satellite technology. The successful Delta III flight also provided valuable data being used to develop Delta IV systems.
Progress with the Delta IV program was non-stop with many significant milestones being achieved at facilities across the country. The first fully integrated common booster core (CBC) was unveiled at the new Boeing manufacturing facility located in Decatur, Ala. The facility will produce all Delta IV CBCs.
A new Boeing facility at NASA's Stennis Space Center located in Mississippi was inaugurated and will co-locate production and test facilities for the RS-68 engine. Each engine will be fully tested prior to shipment to the Delta rocket factory in Decatur, Ala.
Boeing also made significant news within the U.S. rocket industry by completing its first Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) at CCAFS. The company also broke ground on a second HIF at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The new facilities will assemble Delta IV rockets horizontally rather than vertically increasing safety, quality and efficiency. Horizontal integration of the Delta IV will also allow the Delta team to process multiple launch vehicles in parallel, increasing flexibility to deal with customer scheduling changes, while decreasing "time on pad." Current Delta launch vehicles, which are integrated on the launch pad, spend approximately four weeks on the pad. By utilizing the HIF, the Delta IV team will reduce that time to approximately one week.
With the promise of success for the Delta IV, the Air Force gave Boeing approval for production and mission integration of a Delta IV for the first Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) launch for the Defense Satellite Communications System.
As 2000 draws to a close, the Delta IV team is busy starting its multi-phased test program of the common booster core at Stennis. This will be highlighted by a static test firing of the CBC with its fully integrated engine and related subsystems in a simulated flight scenario. During the testing, the CBC will undergo all of the stresses associated with launch while carrying out the commands of a typical flight profile. The test program is typical of the approach the Delta IV team is taking to prove out the launch vehicle's completed systems prior to flight.
Launch Services Orders
NASA Launch Services (NLS) - NASA awarded Boeing three firm launch services contracts and five options. The award included a 10-year ID/IQ contract for Delta II, Delta III and Delta IV launch services. RADARSAT II - MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd., Richmond, British Columbia, Canada, awarded Boeing a Delta II launch contract for the world's most advanced synthetic aperture radar system, on board a Delta II rocket in 2003.
Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle -- The Air Force revised the Initial Launch Services contract for the EELV program by awarding Boeing two additional launches. Boeing has now been awarded 21 of the 28 launch services contracts for the EELV program. The Air Force also authorized a Delta IV Heavy demonstration flight in 2003.
Mars Rover 2003 - NASA exercised its first option under the NLS contract by awarding Boeing a Delta II launch for the Mars Rover 2003 mission.
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