CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. – When one pictures a rocket, an iconic combination of launch vehicle and spacecraft encapsulated within its fairing comes to mind. Such was not the case Thursday. In what is known as the Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR) a Delta IV Medium emerged from its protective hangar – without the fairing or spacecraft. The test is done to test out the launch vehicle prior to the arrival of the spacecraft to ensure that it is ready for integration.
“What you have behind us is a nine million pound building that is being moved back the length of a football field over the course of 20 minutes,” said United Launch Alliance Spokesperson Jessica Rye. “The Delta IV launch vehicle is essentially complete; it’s missing a few key components such as the vehicle’s batteries and obviously the spacecraft payload.”
The building that is moved back to expose the rocket is known as the Mobile Service Tower or MST. This building is about as tall as a football field is long and is wheeled back on two massive wheels. After this is complete engineers over at the Launch Control Center go through a mock countdown that tests the rocket’s systems.
The version of this Delta IV medium is the 4, 2 configuration is mounted with two solid rocket boosters (provided by Utah’s Alliant Techsystems) that give the rocket the extra-added thrust required to send the payload to orbit. For this particular rocket, its mission is to launch the GPS 2F-2 satellite to orbit for the U.S. Air Force.
The launch is currently slated to take place on July 14 at 2:51 a.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 37B. The GPS 2F-2 satellite will be moved out to the launch pad in the next couple weeks to be integrated with the launch vehicle in preparation for launch.
“After the GPS spacecraft is encapsulated it is brought out to the launch pad where it will be mated to the rocket,” said Captain Stephen Nielson with the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing. When the dimensions of the MST were being discussed Nielson was asked if the people at CCAFS did anything ‘small’ out at the Cape, his simple answer? “No sir.”