The Jeuns

Top rocket from United Launch Alliance to be retired after next week’s launch

March 24, 2024 | by The Jeuns

United Launch Alliance is bidding farewell to the iconic Delta IV Heavy rocket with its final launch. After completing its 16th mission, ULA will retire the Delta IV Heavy from its fleet, marking the end of an era. The rocket’s previous launch in June was a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) NROL-68 mission, setting the stage for its grand finale.

The final Delta IV Heavy launch, designated as the NROL-70 mission, will also be a critical national security operation for the NRO. Set to take place on Thursday, March 28 from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, this historic event is eagerly anticipated. The exact launch time has not been announced yet.

Known for its impressive power and unique design, the Delta IV Heavy features three booster cores with Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A engines that deliver a remarkable 2.1 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. Contributing to the rocket’s construction are four states – Colorado, California, Alabama, and Florida – which have played vital roles in engineering, design, testing, and parts production for this remarkable spacecraft.

When the Delta IV Heavy ignites its engines, spectators are treated to a spectacular display as flames travel up the rocket boosters, earning it the moniker of the “most metal of rockets” by ULA. With a legacy spanning over 60 years, the Delta rocket series has been a symbol of innovation and excellence.

As the Delta IV Heavy exits the stage, ULA is gearing up to introduce its new Vulcan rocket, which will replace both the Atlas V and the Delta Heavy. The Vulcan rocket will utilize American-made hardware, including engines from Blue Origin and Aerojet Rocketdyne, marking a significant shift in the company’s launch capabilities.

In a recent milestone, ULA successfully launched the inaugural Vulcan mission in January, sending Astrobotic’s robotic mission towards the Moon. Despite the mission not reaching its intended destination, the lunar orbital assist provided by ULA was flawless, showcasing the company’s expertise and commitment to space exploration.

The retirement of the Delta IV Heavy marks the end of an era for United Launch Alliance, but the introduction of the Vulcan rocket signals a new chapter in the company’s pursuit of space innovation and exploration.

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