More than 80% of the Delta II fabrication and subassembly takes place in Huntington Beach, CA. Final assembly takes place in the McDonnell-Douglas facility in Pueblo, CO.(1)
Delta is launched from dedicated, dual pads at Launch Complex 17 (LC-17) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), FL. Polar or high inclination missions are launched from the single, dedicated launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), CA. On the Eastern Range, Delta II can launch up to 12 missions per year, if needed.(2)
A critical limit in launch operations is the ground equipment at the launch bases, particularly at the Eastern and Western Ranges, much of which is antiquated and unsupportable. Some range systems average three failures per mission. On 16 Delta missions between February 1992 and September 1993, Eastern Range equipment problems caused 22 delays. In light of those deficiencies, the Air Force has instituted and funded the Range Standardization and Automation (RSA) and launch base infrastructure improvement programs. The RSA program has been a very successful program to date.(3)
Delta vehicles are launched from Launch Complex 17 (LC-17). The launch complex contains two active pads, 17A and 17B. The two pads can be used for simultaneous buildup of two vehicles. The operations which take place on each of the pads include vehicle build-up and checkout, propellant servicing, spacecraft integration, and launch countdown.
McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Company is the commercial Delta launch system operator. MDAC maintains a launch team which also provides launch services for NASA and the USAF at the Cape. MDAC provides the interface to the Department of Transportation for the licensing and certification for launching of the Delta II for commercial spacecraft projects. McDonnell Douglas also has an established interface with Astrotech Space Operations, Inc. Astrotech owns and operates commercial payload processing facilities in Titusville, Florida, which can be used in support of Delta payloads.
Delta launch facilities consist of two launch pads (17A and 17B), a blockhouse, ready room, shops, and other facilities needed to prepare, service, and launch the Delta vehicle. Launch Complex 17, Pad A and Pad B is located in the southeastern section of Cape Canaveral AFS. At Launch Complex 17 the spacecraft is located within the upper level of the white room area enclosure which provides environmental protection for the spacecraft, checkout equipment, and personnel. Since all operations in the launch complex area involve or are conducted in the vicinity of liquid or solid propellants with explosive ordnance devices, strict regulations are in effect with regard to the number of personnel permitted in the area, safety clothing to be worn, the type of activity permitted, and equipment allowed. It is recommended that spacecraft testing and preparation of the spacecraft be held to a minimum after it is mated to the launch vehicle.
Delta vehicles are launched from Space Launch Complex 2 (SLC-2) at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Space Launch Complex 2 (SLC-2) consists of one launch pad (SLC-2W), a blockhouse, launch operations building, and other facilities necessary to prepare, service, and launch the Delta vehicle. Another launch pad (SLC-2E), is not active and was disassembled in 1972. SLC-2W was refurbished in 1989.
Vehicle and payload processing operations are performed at the launch complex and at Building 836 in South Vandenberg. The Delta rockets are delivered to the complex from Huntington Beach, California, processed through DMCO, and are transported to Vandenberg AFB, where that are erected and serviced at the launch complex.
SLC-2W is used to launch the Delta series vehicles. The gantry is a 166-ft (51 m) high structure with nine working levels designated as A, B, C, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. An elevator provides access to the seven lower working levels except Level C. In the upper level enclosure, or white room areas, protection is provided for the spacecraft, checkout equipment, and personnel. Since all operations in the launch complex area involve or are conducted in the vicinity of liquid or solid propellants and/or explosive ordnance devices, strict regulations are in effect with regard to the number of personnel permitted in the area, safety clothing to be worn, the type of activity permitted, and equipment allowed. Therefore, adherence to all safety regulations is required.
The white room (spacecraft working area) encloses Levels 4, 5, and 6; however, Level 4 is not used for spacecraft work. Levels 4 and 5 are fixed platforms with the capability to be relocated. Level 6 is an adjustable platform with a range of 15.6 ft (4.8 m). The enclosure is constructed of RF transparent panels. An internal bridge crane with a 3-ton (2722 kg) capacity, used for pairing installation and spacecraft equipment that must be removed within the gantry, has a maximum hook height of 30.8 ft (9.4 m) above Level 5. The entire gantry is constructed to meet explosion-proof safety requirements. The restriction on the number of personnel admitted to the white room is governed by safety requirements, as well as the limited amount of work space on the spacecraft levels. It is recommended that spacecraft testing and preparations be held to a minimum after mating to the launch vehicle.
Launch operations are controlled from the blockhouse which is equipped with vehicle monitoring and control equipment. Space is also allocated for use by spacecraft personnel. In addition, a spacecraft console is available which will accept a standard rack-mounted panel. Terminal board connections in the console provide electrical connection to the spacecraft umbilical wires.
The current configurations of the Delta launch vehicle are the Delta and Delta II. LC-17 has the capability to launch both the Delta and Delta II vehicles. SLC-2, however currently has the capability to launch Delta I only. The Delta II vehicle has extended first stage propellant tanks (7.3 feet for oxidizer, 4.7 feet for fuel), enlarged payload pairing 95 or 10 feet, versus, 8 feet), and enhanced solid rocket motors. Studies to provide Delta II launches from Vandenberg are currently under way.
1. McDonnell Douglas Commercial Delta, Inc., Commercial Delta II Payload Planners Guide, MDC H3224B, December 1989.
2. Department of Defense, Space Launch Modernization Plan - Executive Summary, 5 May 1994, page 11.
3. Department of Defense, Space Launch Modernization Plan - Executive Summary, 5 May 1994, page 28.
4. Adapted from: McDonnell-Douglas Corporation, Delta II Commercial Spacecraft Users Manual, July 1987, MDC H3224;
US Department of Transportation Office of Commercial Space Transportation, Scheduling Commercial Launch Operations at National Ranges, (Washington, DC, May 1989)
5. Adapted from: Adapted from: McDonnell-Douglas Corporation, Delta II Commercial Spacecraft Users Manual, July 1987, MDC H3224; and
US Department of Transportation Office of Commercial Space Transportation, Scheduling Commercial Launch Operations at National Ranges, (Washington, DC, May 1989).
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