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Final Voyage Delayed: ULA Postpones Last Delta IV Heavy Launch with Classified NRO Payload
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Final Voyage Delayed: ULA Postpones Last Delta IV Heavy Launch with Classified NRO Payload
by Clarence Oxford
Space Coast FL (SPX) Mar 28, 2024

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) has announced a postponement in the final mission of the Delta IV Heavy rocket, now rescheduled for Friday afternoon. This delay comes as the rocket was prepared for its last journey from Cape Canaveral Space Force Base's Space Launch Complex-37.

The intended launch time was at 2:45 p.m. EDT; however, a hold was called by flight control approximately four minutes prior to liftoff. Ton Heter, the Launch Director, confirmed that the mission, known as NROL-70, would be deferred to the next available window at 1:37 p.m. EDT on Friday.

NROL-70 is conducted for the National Reconnaissance Office, carrying a classified payload, speculated to be an Electronic Signals Intelligence Satellite. This mission signifies the conclusion of the Delta IV Heavy's service and the retirement of the entire Delta rocket family, which has been instrumental in delivering payloads for the U.S. since 1960. The legacy began with the successful deployment of the Echo 1A communications satellite.

Originally developed by Macdonald Douglas and Boeing after their merger in 1997, the Delta IV Heavy, now produced by ULA, has facilitated the launch of numerous U.S. satellites over the last two decades. Since its inaugural flight in 2002, there have been 44 launches, with 16 of these utilizing the Delta IV Heavy variant. While primarily serving the U.S. defense sector, the platform has also supported missions for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.

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