Mobile gantry rolled back to reveal Delta 4 rocket at Vandenberg

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The mission was dubbed NROL-47.

"That version of the Delta IV has flown only twice before, and analysts who track space activities believe both launches - in 2012 and 2016 - hauled so-called Topaz radar reconnaissance satellites into orbit", Spaceflight Now's Stephen Clark wrote in late December.

NROL-47 will be operated by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which builds and manages the United States' spy satellites. According to the organization's website, "together with other Defense Department satellites, the NRO systems play a crucial role in providing global communications, precision navigation, early warning of missile launches and potential military aggression, signals intelligence, and near real-time imagery to US forces to support the war on terrorism and other continuing operations". It was scrubbed again Thursday "Due to an issue with a ground system valve", ULA said. ULA constructed the Delta IV Medium+ (5,2) launch vehicle in Decatur, Ala. Each configuration is comprised of a common booster core (CBC), a cryogenic upper stage and either a 4-m-diameter or 5-m-diameter payload fairing (PLF).

Friday's launch took place five days after the USA reportedly lost another secret satellite - named Zuma - on a Falcon 9 rocket manufactured by rival rocket company Space X, according to a ULA webcast. The Delta IV M+(5,2) and Delta IV M+(5,4) have two and four SRMs, respectively, and 5-m-diameter PLF. These have been used on the Delta IV since its initial flight in 2002.

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Yesterday, weather and other technical issues forced a delay. The launch, if it goes off as planned, would be the first of the year from Vandenberg. "We are proud to provide this national defense capability, and every Team V member involved has tirelessly worked to ensure the launch is safe and successful".

Col. Greg Wood, the 30th Space Wing vice commander, will serve as the space launch commander.

While his academic studies have ranged from psychology and archaeology to biology, he has never lost his passion for space exploration.

Jim resides in the San Francisco Bay area and has attended NASA Socials for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover landing and the NASA LADEE lunar orbiter launch.

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