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Payload mated for launch aboard next Delta 4 rocket
Posted: July 11, 2014

CAPE CANAVERAL -- Two spacecraft that will track man-made objects and deter threats in geosynchronous orbit were hauled to the launch pad today and mounted atop a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 booster rocket.

File photo of payload being mated to Delta 4. Credit: ULA
Twin Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program satellites, or GSSAP, will be launched into orbit on July 23 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

"This previously classified program will deliver two satellites..for launch into near geosynchronous orbit," said Douglas Loverro, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, at the Department of Defense.

"Our decision to declassify this program was simple. We need to monitor what happens 22,000 miles above the Earth, and we want to make sure that everyone knows we can do so. We believe that such efforts add immeasurably to both the safety of space flight and the stability that derives from the ability to attribute actions -- to the benefit of all space-faring nations and all who rely on space-based services."

Built by Orbital Sciences, one craft will fly just below and the other just above the geosynchronous satellite belt. That's where spacecraft orbit 22,300 miles in altitude and match the Earth's rotation to appear parked over one spot of the globe -- such as communications, weather, missile warning and eavesdropping reconnaissance platforms.

"The electro-optical payload on GSSAP gives us very close-up neighborhood watch capability that helps prevent surprise, and that protects our assets in GEO," said Gen. William Shelton, head of Air Force Space Command.

In preparation for the launch, the payload, already encapsulated in the 39-foot-long, 13-foot-diameter nose cone was delivered to Complex 37 this morning for hoisting into the pad gantry and attachment to the Delta 4's upper stage.

The move occurred following a successful countdown dress rehearsal and rocket fueling exercise on Tuesday.

Liftoff on July 23 is slated to occur some time between 6 and 10 p.m. EDT (2200-0200 GMT). The exact launch time has not been announced.

The launch will be the 368th for a Delta rocket, the 27th Delta 4 and the 12th to fly in the Medium+ (4,2) configuration with a pair of strap-on solid motors.

For United Launch Alliance, it is the company's 33rd flight for the Air Force, the 85th launch overall since 2006 and the 8th just this year.

About the author

Justin Ray has been a reporter with Spaceflight Now since the website's inception in November 1999. The online news service, based at Cape Canaveral, has documented U.S. and international space news with a specialty of live launch coverage.

Prior to that, Justin worked for two years as an aerospace reporter at the Florida Today newspaper and its pioneering Space Online website. He began his career as an intern at Patrick Air Force Base's public affairs office in 1996 and wrote for the Missileer base newspaper.

The Ohio native has covered 134 Delta rocket launches, 94 Atlas flights, 65 space shuttle missions and construction of the International Space Station, plus scientific spacecraft such as the Mars rovers and Cassini.

He attended college at the University of Central Florida and now resides in Viera, Florida.