United Launch Alliance Launches A Delta IV Carrying AFSPC-6 Mission.

Launching from SLC-37 at Cape Canaveral, the Delta IV rocket carried the AFSPC-6 mission into orbit. The Delta IV rocket stands at an impressive 206 feet tall and will provide about 702,000 pounds of thrust at lift-off. At the time of lift-off the Delta IV rocket will weigh 14,876 pounds, this includes the payload, fuel and rocket.

Below are a few 360° panoramic images capturing the size of the Delta IV rocket while it is sitting vertical at the Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral.

Night time 360° panoramic of the Delta IV rocket blasting off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

About the AFSPC-6 Mission

United Launch Alliance (ULA) delivered two Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) satellites to near-geosynchronous orbit using one of its Delta IV Medium+ (4,2) rockets. The Delta IV rocket blasted off from Space Launch Complex 37 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Florida.

The twin Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program spacecraft were build by Orbital ATK and will be a space based capability operating in near-geosynchronous orbit regime supporting US Strategic Command space operations, as a dedicated Space Surveillance Network (SSN). These GSSAP satellites will support Joint Functional Component Command for Space (JFCC SPACE) taking to collect space situational awareness data allowing for more accurate tracking and characterization of man-made orbiting objects.

From a near-geosynchronous orbit the GSSAP satellites will have a clear, unobstructed and distinct vantage pont for viewing Resident Space Objects (RSOs) without the interruption of weather or the atmospheric distortion that can limit ground based systems. GSSAP satellites will operate near the geosynchronous belt and will have the capability to perform Rendezvous and Proximity Operations (RPO).

Rendezvous and Proximity Operations allow for the space vehicle to maneuver near a resident space object of interest, enabling characterization for anomaly resolution and enhanced awareness, while maintaining flight safety. Data from GSSAP will uniquely contribute to timely and accurate orbital predictions, enhancing our knowledge of the geosynchronous orbit environment, and further enabling space flight safety to include satellite collision avoidance.

The twin GSSAP spacecraft will communicate information through the world wide Air Force Satellite Network (AFSCN) ground stations, then to Schriever Air Force Base, CO where the 50th Space Wing satellite operators of the 1st Space Operations Squadron (1 SOPS) will oversee daily operations.

These are not the first GSSAP satellites to be launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. On July 28, 2014 ULA launched GSSAP satellites aboard a Delta IV M+ (4,2) which was the AFSPC-4 mission.

Read more about the mission.

About the Delta IV Rocket

Payload Fairing (PLF)

The Payload Faring is a composite bisection or a two piece shell with a 4 foot diameter faring. The PLF encapsulates the spacecraft to protect it from the launch environment on ascent. The PLF is about 38.5 feet tall.

Delta Cryogenic Second Stage (DCSS)

The Delta Cryogenic Second Stage propellant tanks are structrually ridged and constructed of isogrid aluminum rings forging and spun-formed aluminum domes. It is a cryogenic liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen-fueled vehicle, and uses a single RL10B-2 engine that produces 24,750 pounds of thrust. The DCSS tanks are insulated with a combination of spray-on and bond-on insulation and helium-purged insulation blankets. There is an equipment shelf attached to the aft dome of the DCSS liquid oxygen tank that provides the structural mountings for the vehicle electronics. The RL10 engines are manufactured by Aerojet Rocketdyne in West Palm Beach, Florida.


The common booster core (CBC) consist of teh RS-68A engine, the engine section and thermal sheild, the liquid hydrogen (LH2) tank, the center-body, and the liquid oxygen (LO2) tank. The Delta IV booster tanks are also structurally rigid and constructed of isogrid aluminum barrels, spun-formed aluminum domes and machined aluminum tank skirts. Delta IV booster propulsion is provided by the throttleable RS-68A engine system, desinged and manufactured by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, is the largest existing hydrogen-burning engine and delivers 702,000 pounds of thrust at sea level. Rocketdyne makes the RS-68A engine in De Soto, CA.

Solid Rocket Motors (SRM)

Two solid rocket motors, combined, produce an additional 517,085 pounds of thrust at liftoff. The Solid Rocket Motors are 5 feet in diameter and 53 feet long. They are constructed of a graphite-epoxy composite. The SRMs are connected to the booster by two ball and socket joints and structural thrusters. AFSPC-6 will be the first Delta IV M+ (4,2) flight supporting one fixed SRM and one vectorable SRM.

A few launch facts:

  • AFSPC-6 marks ULA’s 110th mission since the company was founded in 2006.
  • The seventh ULA launch of 2016

Interested in learning more about the ULA Delta IV rocket? visit the ULA Delta IV page.