The Legendary Delta II to Take Flight from CA Next Week

Images credit & copyright: NASA & United Launch Alliance (ULA).

Launch Alert! Stay up late or get up early because on Saturday, November 18, 2017 at 01:47 PST (04:47 EST & 09:47 UTC) the United Launch Alliance (ULA) will be launching the legendary Delta II rocket, flying in its 7920-10C configuration carrying the Joint Polar Satellite System 1 (JPSS-1) into a Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO) from Space Launch Complex 2 West (SLC-2W or Slick 2), Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), CA.

NOTE: With Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 17B (SLC-17B) having been inactive since 2011, Vandenberg’s SLC-2W is the only location that the Delta II launches from.

This will be ULA’s 123rd launch overall, the Delta II’s 154th flight overall and its 53rd for NASA.

Delta II in history: The Delta rocket family traces its roots back to the Thor-Delta series that NASA used from May 1960 with the Echo 1 & 1A inflatable passive balloon satellites to the early 1980s.  Production was ceased at Delta 183 with the rollout of the Space Transportation System (STS) aka; the Space Shuttle program. However after the STS-51-L Challenger disaster in 1986, it was decided to bring Delta back into the fold. Production was restarted and on Valentine’s Day, 1989 and the first Delta II (Delta 184 & USA-35) delivered GPS 14 into orbit from Space Launch Complex-17A (SLC-17A) at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), FL.

With the launch of Delta 357 carrying the Suomi NPP satellite from Space Launch Complex-2 (SLC-2) at Vandenberg AFB, CA on October 28, 2011 the Delta II program was, for all intents and purposes, retired.  The Pentagon & USAF pegged the Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles to deliver the next generation GPS satellites into orbit and with the up and coming commercial launch program the Delta II was phased out.  The only caveat to that was the fact that they had already built five more Delta II launch vehicles for NASA.

On July 2, 2014 one of those five remaining Delta II rockets (Delta-367) was called into service as it launched NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO2) from Space Launch Complex-2W (SLC-2W) at Vandenberg AFB, CA.

On January 31, 2015 another Delta II was used to launch the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Earth observation satellite from Space Launch Complex-2W (SLC-2W) at Vandenberg AFB, CA.

This week’s Delta II is of course scheduled to launch the Joint Polar Satellite System 1 (JPSS-1) from Space Launch Complex-2W (SLC-2W) at Vandenberg AFB, CA.

There is another Delta II scheduled to launch Ice, Cloud & land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) in 2018 from Space Launch Complex-2W (SLC-2W) at Vandenberg AFB, CA.

What about that final Delta II rocket?  You want my opinion; a legend like the Delta II deserves to be remembered and at least one preserved so future generations can come see that “Delta Blue” first hand.  The last Delta II should be strapped with 9 GEM’s, a shark nose and placed on display at Kennedy Space Center’s Rocket Garden with the ceremony, appropriately on the day where it all began; Valentine’s Day.

Also; seeing that I mentioned shark nose, anyone want to take a guess as to why some Delta II’s flew with a shark nose? I’ll give you a hint; it’s not “Snark the Shark” who is the 45th Space Wing’s (Patrick AFB, Cape Canaveral) mascot.   Snark was also a name of one of the earliest missiles to launch from Cape Canaveral. Ok, I’m dragging this out. The shark nose was only used on Delta II launches that carried Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites and the shark nose was to pay homage to the World War II (WWII) First American Volunteer group known as the Flying Tigers Fighter Squadron. Their P-40 Warhawks wore the famous shark teeth that we saw on the Delta II.

Image credit & copyright: Justin Ray/Spaceflight Now

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II-7000 Series rocket is a two or three-stage rocket that on average stands 39 m (128 ft.) with a diameter of 2.44 m (8 ft.) and consists of  Extra-Extended Long Tank Thor first stage with an Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-27A engine and an Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ-10 Delta-K upper stage. The vehicle is available in many different configurations which are built specifically for each individual mission. Its remaining launch site is Vandenberg Air Force Base, Launch Complex-2 (LC-2). Performance to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for the 7000 series ranges from 1,870 kg (4,120 lb.) to 3,470 kg (7,640 lb.).


7 = Denotes 7000 series with the Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-27A Main Engine.

9 = 9 Graphite Epoxy Motors (GEM’s) Solid Rocket Boosters.

2 = Delta-K Second Stage with Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ-10 engine.

0 = 0 Third Stage

10 = 10 ft. diameter fairing.

Delta II Lift Capability:

Low Earth Orbit: 732X-10 = 1,870 kg (4,120 lbs.) / 742X-10 = 2,210 kg (4,880 lbs.) / 792X-10 = 3,470 kg (7,640 lbs.).

Main Payload Fairing (PLF): The Main Payload Fairing for the Delta II is a two-shell, 2.9 m (9.5 ft.) diameter, 8.5m (27.8 ft.) long fairing. There are also two optional variants of a 3 m (10 ft.) diameter fairing; one 350 inches in length and the stretched version which is 364 inches in length. PLF’s protect the payload during ascent as the vehicle passes through maximum dynamic pressure created as is speeds through the heavy atmosphere at an ever quickening pace. Once a safe altitude is reached, the fairings are jettisoned, exposing the payload for separation.

Delta-K Second Stage: The Delta-K stage is 2.4 m (7.87 ft.) in diameter and 5.9 m (19.3 ft.) in length. It consists of a single hypergolic AJ10-118K (AJ-10) Aerojet Rocketdyne Engine that utilizes Aerozine-50 (50/50 mix by weight of hydrazine & unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine UDMH) for propellant and dinitrogen tetroxide (N204) as an oxidizer. The combination produces 43.6 kN (9,750 lbs.) of thrust, 320.5 seconds of specific impulse in a vacuum with a burn time of up to 500 seconds to include multiple engine firings.

Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM-40) Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB’s): Are Hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB) solid fueled motors produced by Orbital ATK. They have a diameter of 1 m (3.3 ft. or 40 in.), a length of 13 m (42.5 ft. or 510 in.) and the total number of GEM-40’s utilized is dependent on the individual mission and can vary from 3 to 9. When 9 are used, 6 (standard short nozzles) ignite at liftoff and when they burn out, the remaining 3 (extended nozzles) ignite. GEM-40’s have a peak vacuum thrust of 492 kN (145,000 lbf.) and a specific impulse of 728 seconds in a vacuum.  There are also larger (46 in. X 577 in.) GEM-46 SRB’s available.

First Stage: The Delta II first stage is an Extra-Extended Long Tank Thor at 26.5 m (87 ft.) in length by 2.4 m. (7.8 ft.) in diameter and is powered by a single Aerojet-Rocketdyne RS-27A engine that utilizes Rocket Propellant-1 (RP-1 or highly purified kerosene) as propellant and Liquid Oxygen (LOX) as the oxidizer. It provides 1,054 kN (237,000 lbs.) of thrust at sea level, a specific impulse of 302 seconds at sea level and can burn for 265 seconds.

Stream Live:


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JPSS-1 Mission Information:

NOAA JPSS-1 Mission:

ULA JPSS-1 page:

General 2017 Launch List (Wiki):

Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Complex (SLC) locations & viewing locations:

NOAA/NASA JPSS-1 & Satellites Social Media:

Main Site:






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United Launch Alliance (ULA):

ULA homepage:

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Twitter for ULA CEO Tory Bruno:




Delta II Launch Vehicle:

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ULA Delta II Payload Planner’s Guide:

Delta II Wiki:

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Main Site:



Vandenberg AFB, 30th Space Wing, CA:

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