A Delta III rocket
|Function||Orbital launch vehicle|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Height||35 m (114 ft)|
|Diameter||4 m (13.1 ft)|
|Mass||301,450 kg (664,580 lb)|
|Payload to LEO||8,290 kg (18,280 lb)|
|3,810 kg (8,390 lb)|
|Launch sites||SLC-17, Cape Canaveral|
|First flight||August 27, 1998|
|Last flight||August 23, 2000|
|No. boosters||9 Nº|
|Engines||1 GEM 46|
|Thrust||628.3 kN (141,250 lbf)|
|Specific impulse||273 s (2.68 kN·s/kg) (sea level)|
|Burn time||75 seconds|
|Engines||1 Rocketdyne RS-27A|
|Thrust||1085.79 kN (244,094 lbf)|
|Specific impulse||254 s (2.49 kN·s/kg) (sea level)|
|Burn time||260 seconds|
|Engines||1 Pratt & Whitney RL10B|
|Thrust||110.03 kN (24,736 lbf)|
|Specific impulse||462 s (4.53 kN·s/kg)|
|Burn time||700 seconds|
The Delta III rocket was an expendable launch vehicle made by Boeing. The first Delta III launch was on August 26, 1998. Of its three flights, the first two were failures, and the third, though declared successful, reached the low end of its targeted orbit range and carried only a dummy (inert) payload. The Delta III could deliver up to 8,400 pounds (3,800 kilograms) to geostationary transfer orbit, twice the payload of its predecessor, the Delta II. Under the 4-digit designation system from earlier Delta rockets, the Delta III is classified as the Delta 8930.
Like the Delta II, the first stage of the Delta III burned kerosene and liquid oxygen and was powered by one Rocketdyne RS-27A main engine with two vernier engines for roll control. While the propellant load and gross mass of the stage were nearly identical to the Delta II, the diameter of the kerosene tank was increased from 2.4 meters to 4 meters. This reduced the overall length of the vehicle and allowed the Delta III to use the same launch facilities as the Delta II with only minor modifications.
First stage thrust was augmented by nine GEM-46 solid rocket boosters, sometimes referred to as GEM LDXL (Large Diameter Extended Length). These were 14.7 meters length, 1.2 m (46 inches) in diameter, and had a mass of 19 metric tons each, about 6 metric tons more than the Delta II's standard GEM-40 motors. Six were ignited on the launch pad, while the remaining three were ignited just before burnout and separation of the ground-lit boosters. To maintain steering authority, three of the boosters had vectoring nozzles. GEM-46 boosters would later find use on the Delta II, leading to the Delta II Heavy.
The second stage of the Delta III was the newly-developed Delta Cryogenic Second Stage (DCSS), which burned liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The liquid hydrogen tank was 4 meters in diameter, while the separate liquid oxygen tank was 2.4 meters in diameter. This stage offered significantly better performance than the Delta II's second stage, the Delta-K, which burns hypergolic propellants. The DCSS was powered by a Pratt & Whitney RL10B-2 engine, derived from the RL10 powering the Centaur upper stage but featuring electromechanical actuators for gimbal control and an extending nozzle for increased specific impulse. After Delta III's retirement, this stage was modified for use as the Delta IV's second stage.
The payload fairing was a new composite design, matching the upper stage hydrogen tank at 4 meters diameter and allowing larger payloads than the Delta II's 9.5 or 10 foot fairing.
Payload to GTO (Geostationary-Transfer Orbit) was doubled versus the Delta II but the consecutive failures of the initial Delta IIIs, combined with the more-advanced Delta IV program and the continuing success of the Delta II, left the Delta III as an interim vehicle.
Delta Flight 259: The inaugural launch on 26 August 1998 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station ended in failure, when software adapted from the Delta II caused a guidance failure during first-stage flight. The failure and subsequent vehicle motion depleted the hydraulic fluid used for steering. Upon loss of control, the vehicle was destroyed. The Galaxy X satellite (Hughes HS601 HP type) crashed in the Atlantic Ocean.
Delta Flight 269: The second launch on 4 May 1999, also from Cape Canaveral, also ended in failure. The second stage engine experienced a pressure anomaly and rupture, and shut down while its second burn was underway. The Orion 3 satellite (Hughes HS601 model) was stranded in a useless orbit.
Delta Flight 280: The third and final flight was 23 August 2000, and launched the DM-F3 payload. This was a dummy payload designed to mimic an HS601 communications satellite, and equipped with sensors to monitor vehicle characteristics. Final orbit was slightly low (180.76 x 20,694 km x 27.5 deg. versus a planned 185 x 23,404 km), but the orbit apogee was within the allowable 3,000 km margin of error allowing Boeing to declare the flight a success. However, with the combined factors of a declining satellite launch market, low customer confidence following the two consecutive failures, and the advent of Boeing's new Delta IV, this would prove to be the Delta III's final launch campaign.
- "Delta III Launch Vehicle". 2001. Archived from the original on November 14, 2001.
- "Delta III Payload Planner's Guide". Archived from the original on 19 November 2001.
- "Delta III Data Sheet". Space Launch Report. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
- "Delta 3". Astronautix. Retrieved January 2015.
- "Delta 3 Rocket Falls Short, but Still a Success Boeing Says", SpaceFlightNow, 8-24-2000, http://spaceflightnow.com/delta/d280/000824loworbit.html