The Delta IV rocket
United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV rocket has served the nation’s high-priority U.S. Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office space programs with distinction since entering service in 2002. The vehicle also launched NASA’s Orion capsule on its first orbital test flight and sent the Parker Solar Probe on its journey to become the fastest robot in history while surfing through the sun’s atmosphere. Having flown 37 missions in a variety of configurations ranging from medium-lift to heavy-lifter, the Delta IV continues the legacy of the Delta rocket family that dates to 1960.
NROL-71 will launch aboard a Delta IV Heavy rocket features three hydrogen-fueled common booster cores and a Delta Cryogenic Second Stage. The payload is protected during atmospheric ascent by a composite payload fairing.
- Height: 233 feet
- Weight: 1.6 million pounds
- Thrust: 2.1 million pounds
- Fuel: 465,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen
Space Launch Complex 6
Space Launch Complex 6, the West Coast home of the Delta IV rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, is a classic launch pad design with a Fixed Umbilical Tower and a Mobile Service Tower. The core stages of the rocket are assembled in the nearby Horizontal Integration Facility, then rolled to the pad for attachment of the payload, final testing and the countdown. The site also features a Mobile Assembly Shelter that provides full enclosure of the rocket from the weather during pre-launch preparations. The MST and the MAS are retracted to unveil the rocket prior liftoff.
SLC 6 was constructed by the U.S. Air Force in the 1960s for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program and modified in the 1980s to be a West Coast launch site for the space shuttle. Both projects were cancelled before the site hosted a launch. It was used briefly in the 1990s for Lockheed Martin’s Athena rocket. The pad was rejuvenated in an extensive overhaul to support the Delta IV starting in 2000. NROL-71 will be the 12th launch from this complex and the 8th by a Delta IV.