Delta IV Heavy

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Delta IV Heavy
Delta IV launch 2013-08-28.jpg
Delta IV Heavy launches from Vandenberg AFB
Function Orbital heavy lift launch vehicle
Manufacturer United Launch Alliance
Country of origin United States
Cost per launch $400 million[1] (2017)
Height 72 m (236 ft)
Diameter 5 m (16 ft)
Width 15 m (49 ft)
Mass 733,000 kg (1,616,000 lb)
Stages 2+
Payload to LEO 28,790 kg (63,470 lb)
Payload to GTO 14,220 kg (31,350 lb)
Associated rockets
Family Delta IV
Launch history
Status Active
Launch sites
Total launches 9
Successes 8
Partial failures 1
First flight 21 December 2004 (USA-181)
Last flight 11 June 2016 (Orion NROL-37)
Notable payloads
Boosters (CBC)
No. boosters 2
Length 40.8 m (134 ft)
Diameter 5.1 m (17 ft)
Gross mass 226,400 kg (499,100 lb)
Propellant mass 200,400 kg (441,800 lb)[2]
Engines 1 RS-68A
Thrust 3,140 kN (710,000 lbf)
Total thrust 6,280 kN (1,410,000 lbf)
Specific impulse Sea level: 360 s (3.5 km/s)
Vacuum: 412 s (4.04 km/s)
Burn time 242 seconds[3]
Fuel LH2 / LOX
First stage (CBC)
Length 40.8 m (134 ft)
Diameter 5.1 m (17 ft)
Gross mass 226,400 kg (499,100 lb)
Propellant mass 200,400 kg (441,800 lb)
Engines 1 RS-68A
Thrust 3,140 kN (710,000 lbf)
Specific impulse Sea level: 360 s (3.5 km/s)
Vacuum: 412 s (4.04 km/s)
Burn time 328 seconds
Fuel LH2 / LOX
Second stage (DCSS)
Length 13.7 m (45 ft)
Diameter 5.1 m (17 ft)
Gross mass 30,700 kg (67,700 lb)
Propellant mass 27,220 kg (60,010 lb)
Engines 1 RL10-B-2
Thrust 110 kN (25,000 lbf)
Specific impulse 462 s (4.53 km/s)
Burn time 1,125 seconds
Fuel LH2 / LOX

The Delta IV Heavy (Delta 9250H) is an expendable heavy lift launch vehicle, the largest type of the Delta IV family, and the world's highest capacity rocket currently in operation.[4] It is manufactured by United Launch Alliance and it was first launched in 2004.[5]

The Delta IV Heavy uses two additional Common Booster Cores (CBCs) as liquid rocket boosters instead of the GEM-60 solid rocket motors used by the Delta IV Medium+ versions. At lift off, all three cores operate at full thrust, and 44 seconds later the center core throttles down to 55% to conserve fuel until booster separation. The boosters burn out at 242 seconds after launch, and are separated as the core booster throttles back up to full thrust. The core burns out 86 seconds later, and the second stage completes the ascent to orbit.[3]


The first launch of the Delta IV Heavy in 2004 carried a boilerplate payload (dummy payload), and failed to reach intended orbit. Cavitation in the liquid oxygen propellant lines caused shutdown of both boosters 8 seconds early, and the core engine 9 seconds early; this resulted in a lower staging velocity for which the second stage was unable to compensate. The payload was left in a lower than intended orbit.[6] Its first operational payload was the DSP-23 satellite, successfully launched in 2007; it was then used to launch a further five visual and electronic reconnaissance satellites for the National Reconnaissance Office through 2013.[citation needed]

In December 2014, the Delta IV Heavy was used to launch an uncrewed test flight of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, designated EFT-1. After several delays on December 4,[7] the mission was successfully launched at 12:05 UTC on December 5.[8]

Capacity of the Delta IV Heavy:

The Delta IV Heavy's total mass at launch is approximately 733,000 kg (1,616,000 lb). For comparison, the total mass at launch of the Saturn V used in the Apollo program was 2,970,000 kg (6,550,000 lb).

Launch history[edit]

Date Payload[12] Launch site
Dec. 21, 2004 DemoSat, Sparkie / 3CS-1 and Ralphie / 3CS-2 Cape Canaveral SLC-37B
Nov. 11, 2007 DSP-23 Defense Support Program Cape Canaveral SLC-37B
Jan. 18, 2009 Orion 6 / Mentor 4 (USA-202 / NROL-26) Cape Canaveral SLC-37B
Nov. 21, 2010 Orion 7 / Mentor 5 (USA-223 / NROL-32) Cape Canaveral SLC-37B
Jan. 20, 2011 KH-11 Kennen 15 (USA-224 / NROL-49) Vandenberg SLC-6
June 29, 2012 Orion 8 / Mentor 6 (USA-237 / NROL-15) Cape Canaveral SLC-37B
Aug. 28, 2013 KH-11 Kennen 16 (USA-245 / NROL-65) Vandenberg SLC-6
Dec. 05, 2014 Orion capsule Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1) Cape Canaveral SLC-37B
June 11, 2016 Orion 9 / Mentor 7 (USA-268 / NROL-37) Cape Canaveral SLC-37B

Upcoming launches[edit]

The following missions have been announced by NASA and the National Reconnaissance Office.[13]

Date Payload Launch site
July 31, 2018 Parker Solar Probe Cape Canaveral SLC-37B
2018 NROL-71 Vandenberg SLC-6
2019 NROL-44 Cape Canaveral SLC-37B
2020 NROL-82 Vandenberg SLC-6
2021 NROL-68 Cape Canaveral SLC-37B
2022 NROL-70 Cape Canaveral SLC-37B
2023 NROL-91 Vandenberg SLC-6

Comparable vehicles[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "SURPLUS MISSILE MOTORS: Sale Price Drives Potential Effects on DOD and Commercial Launch Providers". GAO. Retrieved 2 September 2017. 
  2. ^ "Delta IV Heavy". Spaceflight 101. Retrieved July 26, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Delta IV Payload Planner's Guide, June 2013" (PDF). United Launch Alliance. Retrieved July 26, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Mission Status Center". SpaceflightNow. Retrieved July 26, 2014. The ULA Delta 4-Heavy is currently the world’s largest rocket, providing the nation with reliable, proven, heavy lift capability for our country's national security payloads from both the east and west coasts. 
  5. ^ "Boeing Delta IV Heavy Achieves Major Test Objectives in First Flight" Archived 2012-04-19 at the Wayback Machine., Boeing, 2004, accessed March 22, 2012
  6. ^ "Delta 4-Heavy investigation identifies rocket's problem". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved July 26, 2014. 
  7. ^ Bergin, Chris (2012-01-18). "EFT-1 set to receive Spring, 2014 launch date after contract negotiations". Retrieved 21 July 2012. 
  8. ^ "Second Stage Ignites as First Stage Falls Away". 
  9. ^ a b c "Delta IV Launch Services User's Guide" (PDF). United Launch Alliance. 2013-10-14. pp. 2–10,5–3. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 14, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Delta IV Data Sheet". Space Launch Report. Retrieved July 26, 2014. 
  11. ^ Ray, Justin (December 7, 2004). "The Heavy: Triple-sized Delta 4 rocket to debut". Spaceflight Now. Archived from the original on December 11, 2004. Retrieved May 13, 2014. 
  12. ^ Krebs, Gunter. "Delta-4". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved June 16, 2016. 
  13. ^ Ray, Justin (June 7, 2016). "Surveillance satellite launching Thursday atop Delta 4-Heavy rocket". Spaceflight Now. 

External links[edit]