The United Launch Alliance’s Delta Mariner has struck the Eggner Ferry Bridge located at U.S. Highway 68 and Kentucky Highway 80 over the Tennessee River Thursday evening, Jan. 26 at 8:15 p.m. Central Time causing a section of the bridge to collapse.
The vessel was transporting the Atlas booster and its Centaur upper stage that will be used to launch the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-2) satellite. That launch is currently scheduled to take place this April. The Delta Mariner was also carrying the interstage adapter for NASA’s Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) mission, which is currently scheduled to launch in August. According to a press release issued by ULA, the accident should not impact either launch.
Images show a section of the bridge draped over the nose of the ship. The cargo section, which contained all of the rocket components, did not sustain any damage. Given the sophisticated avionics that these launch systems employ – ULA will test the components to insure that they were not affected during the accident.
The Delta Mariner was commissioned in 2002 to transport hardware from ULA’s factory in Decatur, Ala., to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station located in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The ship is about 312 feet in length and is owned and operated by Foss Marine. The Coast Guard is conducting an investigation to determine the cause of the accident.