Delta IV rocket prepped for evening launch

Rocket will carry high-bandwidth Air Force satellite into space

Courtesy: United Launch Alliance

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket is closing in on a Wednesday evening blastoff with a high-bandwidth Air Force communications satellite.


Launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 37 is targeted for 6:53 p.m., at the opening of a window running to 7:42 p.m., News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

The $425 million satellite, built by Boeing, is the eighth of at least 10 planned by the Wideband Global Satcom program, or WGS.

Flying in geostationary orbits more than 22,000 miles over the equator, the satellites serve as a backbone of military satellite communications networks facing ever-growing demands for more bandwidth.

The Delta IV is launching in a powerful version that is flying for the sixth time, with a booster bolstered by four strap-on solid rocket motors.

The launch could be the first of three from Cape Canaveral within 10 days, all by different rockets. Orbital ATK's air-launched Pegasus XL rocket is scheduled to boost a NASA science mission to orbit on Dec. 12, and ULA's Atlas V to launch a commercial communications satellite on Dec. 16.

SpaceX also is targeting a Dec. 16 return to flight of its Falcon 9 rocket following a Sept. 1 launch pad explosion. That launch of 10 commercial satellites would fly from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

After a more than 13-year absence from the Space Coast, a Pegasus XL rocket carrying eight NASA satellites arrived Friday afternoon at Cape Canaveral in preparation for a Dec. 12 launch.

Orbital ATK’s L-1011 “Stargazer” carrier aircraft touched down on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Skid Strip at 3:57 p.m. with the 57-foot Pegasus attached to its belly.

The Stargazer is expected to take off from the Skid Strip early Dec. 12 and fly to about 40,000 feet before dropping the winged Pegasus rocket over the ocean more than 100 miles east of Daytona Beach.

Launch is targeted for 8:24 a.m., during a one-hour window that opens at 8:19 a.m.

The three-stage, solid-fueled Pegasus aims to deploy deploy eight small satellites — each weighing about 64 pounds — that comprise NASA’s $157 million Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System mission, or CYGNSS for short.

The spacecraft will measure ocean surface wind speeds within the core of hurricanes to improve understanding about how the storms intensify.

The mission is the 42nd by a Pegasus since its debut in 1990, and the first from Cape Canaveral since April 2003. The rocket has several failures on its record, but none since 1996.