Delta III

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This article is about the rocket. For the submarine see Delta class submarine.
Delta III
Delta III.svg
A Delta III rocket
Function Orbital launch vehicle
Manufacturer Boeing
Country of origin United States
Height 35 m (114 ft)
Diameter 4 m (13.1 ft)
Mass 301,450 kg (664,580 lb)
Stages 2
Payload to LEO 8,290 kg[1] (18,280 lb)
Payload to
3,810 kg[1] (8,390 lb)
Associated rockets
Family Delta
Launch history
Status Retired
Launch sites SLC-17, Cape Canaveral
Total launches 3
Successes 0
Failures 2
Partial failures 1
First flight August 27, 1998
Last flight August 23, 2000
Boosters (Stage 0)
No. boosters 9
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
Fuel solid
First stage
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[2]
Fuel LOX/RP-1
Second stage
Engines 1 Pratt & Whitney RL10B
Thrust 110.03 kN (24,736 lbf)
Specific impulse 462 s (4.53 kN·s/kg)[3]
Burn time 700 seconds[2]
Fuel LOX/LH2

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. Delta III had the capability to deliver 8,400 pounds (3,800 kilograms) of cargo to geostationary transfer orbit, twice the payload of its predecessor in the Delta rocket family, the Delta II.[1] In keeping with the 4-digit designation system from earlier Delta rockets, the Delta III is technically referred to as the Delta 8930.

Vehicle description[edit]

Like the Delta II, the Delta III had a kerosene/oxygen fueled first stage powered by a Rocketdyne RS-27A. In order to keep the vehicle a reasonable length and avoid steering problems, this stage was shortened by increasing the diameter of the kerosene tank from 2.4 meters to 4 meters. This change also allowed the Delta III to use the same launch facilities as the Delta II with only minor modifications.[1]

Upper stage of a Delta III

The second stage of the Delta II, called the Delta-K and fueled by highly toxic and Aerozine-50 and nitrogen tetroxide, was replaced with a more advanced hydrogen/oxygen powered Delta Cryogenic Second Stage (DCSS).The DCSS used a Pratt & Whitney RL10B-2 engine, derived from the RL10 that powered the Centaur upper stage, which featured an extending nozzle for increased performance. The liquid-hydrogen tank was 4 meters in diameter, while the separate liquid-oxygen tank was 2.4 meters in diameter. After Delta III's retirement, this stage would be modified to create the Delta IV's second stage.[4]

The solid rocket boosters were Alliant GEM-46s, sometimes referred to as GEM LDXL (Large Diameter Extended Length). These were 14.7 meters length and 1.17 m (46 inches) in diameter, versus 13 meters and 1.01 m (40 inches) for the GEMs on Delta II. Six were ignited on the launch pad, three were lit in flight. To maintain steering authority, three of the boosters had vectoring nozzles.[1]

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.[3]


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.[1] 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.[4] 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Delta III Launch Vehicle". 2001. Archived from the original on November 14, 2001. 
  2. ^ a b "Delta III Payload Planner's Guide". Archived from the original on 19 November 2001. 
  3. ^ a b "Delta III Data Sheet". Space Launch Report. Retrieved 26 July 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "Delta 3 Rocket Falls Short, but Still a Success Boeing Says", SpaceFlightNow, 8-24-2000,

External links[edit]