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End of an era: ULA launches final Delta IV Heavy Rocket

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. – All good things must come to an end.

And, in this case, it was the final launch Tuesday of the United Launch Alliance-built Delta IV Heavy rocket which brought to a close the Delta program after 60 years.

The Decatur-built rocket, carrying the NROL-70 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office, lifted off at 12:53 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

“Thank you to our teammates past and present for their dedication to these critical national security missions,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. “The Delta IV Heavy rocket was a workhorse for the NRO, launching 12 missions delivering critical national security payloads.

“The NROL-70 mission marked our 35th successful launch with the NRO and we look forward to continuing our partnership launching future national security space missions.” 

The mission marks the end of the Delta era and initiates the future of heavy lift on ULA’s next generation Vulcan rocket. 

“The Delta rocket played a pivotal role in the evolution of space flight since the 1960s,” said Tory Bruno, ULA president and CEO. “This final Delta mission signals ULA’s evolution to the new Vulcan rocket, providing even higher performance than our three-core Delta IV Heavy rocket in a single-core rocket to launch heavy-class missions for the nation.

“We will continue to deliver our superior reliability and unprecedented orbital precision for all our customers across the national security, civil and commercial markets.” 

ULA’s next launch is the Crew Flight Test mission for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program. The launch is planned for no earlier than May 6. 

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