Cargo mounted atop Delta 4 rocket as debut launch nears

Posted: November 5, 2002

The Eutelsat W5 satellite leaves Astrotech overnight. Photo: Carleton Bailie/Boeing
With less than two weeks until its much-anticipated first flight, the Boeing Delta 4 rocket was fitted with its commercial communications satellite cargo Tuesday at Cape Canaveral's launch pad 37B.

Already shrouded in the rocket's white nose cone, the Eutelsat W5 spacecraft made the trek from the Astrotech processing facility in Titusville to the Delta 4 launch pad overnight aboard a special transport trailer.

Parked underneath the oceanfront pad's 330-foot tall mobile service structure, the Alcatel-built satellite was hoisted by crane into the tower and positioned for mating to the rocket's second stage.

The joining of the inaugural Delta 4 rocket and its payload is a major accomplishment in the final pre-launch campaign.

For Boeing, it means the all-important debut of the next-generation Delta 4 is just that much closer to reality. Liftoff is scheduled for 5:38 p.m. EST (2238 GMT) on Saturday, November 16, and officials are hopeful of making that date.

"We've got weather and things that can pop up and get you. But that's just the normal launch business kind of stuff," Dan Collins, Boeing's vice president and Delta program manager, said in an interview Monday.

"It is the first vehicle so there's always something that's going to pop up. But I think we've got the team ready. The team is well rested and having time to sit back and look at what is ahead of them and make sure everybody is ready and prepared. I was down there last week and was very happy with the atmosphere. There is a lot of excitement building."

Activities that are left to come include integrated checks between the rocket and spacecraft, a launch simulation test and flight program verification. A series of readiness review meetings by senior officials are also scheduled in the days leading up to liftoff.

The W5 payload is hoisted into the mobile service tower. Photo: Carleton Bailie/Boeing
Tuesday's delivery of the satellite to the pad was pushed back from last week while engineers reviewed data and analysis of a problem with a Pratt & Whitney RL-10 engine during a recent test. The Delta 4's upper stage uses a single RL-10B-2 liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen powerplant.

"I decided that I wanted to hold off on (taking the payload to the pad). I had some contingency in the schedule and I wanted to keep it in the processing facility until we got a little more information and were able to get a good look at what was the issues with the RL-10," Collins said.

"The key issue that we are working is an issue with Pratt & Whitney on the RL-10 on some engine components that were manufactured this year. They have had some issues with those but they don't seem to be related to components that were manufactured back in the '98 time frame, which was the manufacturing time period for the engine that we have out on the launch stand.

"So we are still working that but we're confident we're going to be able to show that there is no relationship to the current issue and the engine that we have."

The Delta 4's RL-10 will fire twice during the 38-minute mission to place the W5 communications satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit with a high point of 19,420 nautical miles, a low point of 290 nautical miles and inclination of 13.5 degrees to the equator.

W5 and its 24 Ku-band transponders will be used by Paris-based operator Eutelsat to relay video programming and provide Internet connections over Asia.

Flight data file
Vehicle: Delta 4
Payload: Eutelsat W5
Launch date: Nov. 16, 2002
Launch window: 2238-2349 GMT (5:38-6:49 p.m. EST)
Launch site: SLC-37B, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

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