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Delta IV prepped for Wednesday launch

Rocket will carry military communications satellite

The U.S. Air Forces seventh Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS-7) satellite is encapsulated inside a Delta IV rockets payload fairing. (UNITED LAUNCH ALLIANCE)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – On the heels of a successful Atlas V launch this week, United Launch Alliance is preparing a Delta IV rocket to blast a military communications satellite into orbit Wednesday evening.

Local 6 News partner Florida Today says the 217-foot rocket is scheduled to lift off from Launch Complex 37 at 8:07 p.m., the opening of a 39-minute window extending to 8:46 p.m.

Atop the rocket is the seventh in a series of the military's highest-bandwidth communications satellites, known as Wideband Global SATCOM. Boeing built the satellite called WGS-7, valued at $445 million.

The satellite will head to a orbit more than 22,000 miles over the equator, but the Air Force has not confirmed its final position.

The flight is the 30th by a Delta IV, and the fifth in a powerful configuration featuring four strap-on solid rocket motors that each will provide an additional 191,000 pounds of thrust.

Launch managers will gather for a readiness review Tuesday. Assuming it concludes with a "go," the mobile service tower at Launch Complex 37 would roll back to reveal the rocket Wednesday afternoon.

Hours before the Delta IV is scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral, a three-person crew is expected to launch to the International Space Station from Kazakhstan.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, a veteran of two ISS expeditions, will be joined in the Soyuz spacecraft by first-time fliers Kjell Lindgren of NASA and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The launch is at 5:02 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, with docking planned at 10:46 p.m., after just four orbits.

Their flight was delayed about two months by the failure of a Russian Progress resupply mission in April. The Progress shares some common components with the Soyuz and launches on a similar rocket.

The new crew will join three residents already on the station: NASA's Scott Kelly and cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kononenko.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on Monday afternoon plans to discuss the company's preliminary findings about the cause of a Falcon 9 rocket failure more than two minutes after a June 28 launch from Cape Canaveral.

A Dragon capsule carrying more than 5,000 pounds of International Space Station cargo was lost in the flight, and Falcon 9 launches were put on hold indefinitely.

In public remarks so far, Musk has described the mishap as a "huge blow" to SpaceX. He said early analysis found flight data "quite difficult to interpret" and engineers had struggled to find a "clear theory" to explain the accident.

The failed launch followed 18 successful Falcon 9 missions.

Local 6 News partner Florida today said last Sunday featured a Kennedy Space Center employee who had promised to celebrate the arrival of NASA's New Horizons mission at Pluto by eating M&Ms given to him nearly 10 years earlier, on the day the mission launched from Cape Canaveral.

Chuck Tatro, a manager in NASA's Launch Services Program, kept his word and suffered no ill effects, NASA confirmed.

Tatro opened the sealed bag of blue M&Ms with New Horizons during a staff meeting last Tuesday, the day the probe flew closest by the dwarf planet and its five moons.

George Diller, a public affairs officer at KSC, was among those brave enough to sample the launch day souvenir.

"After 9 1/2 years the chocolate still tasted just fine," Diller reported. "The blue coating had become slightly bitter."