Delta II-H launches with NASA’s GLAST telescope

by Chris Bergin

A United Launch Alliance Delta II Heavy launch vehicle has lifted-off with NASA’s next major space observatory, the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST). The launch from Cape Canaveral’s SLC 17-B was slightly delayed to 12:05pm EDT. covered the launch as a live event, with background, up to the second live updates, images, on are interactive pages linked below (read more). Free launch and replay videos now available.


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ULA Delta II-H:

The preparations for launch have suffered several problems, leading to several delays to the scheduled launch date. One such delay allowed for replacement of the rocket’s Flight Termination System battery.

The Delta II 7920H-10C is the heavy version of the 126 foot high two stage Delta II 7920-10 vehicle, featuring a first stage booster powered by a Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RS-27A main engine and nine Alliant Techsystems (ATK) strap-on solid rocket motors.

Six ground start solids will fire at lift-off, with three air start solids firing later, to assist first stage flight. The vehicle is also sporting a 6915 payload attach fitting and secondary latch mechanism.

This is ULA’s first mission for NASA for 2008 and the second Delta II launch from Cape Canaveral. The earlier Delta launch was GPS IIR-19 in March. Overall, this is the fourth launch for ULA this year.

GLAST Spacecraft:

The GLAST spacecraft will study the universe’s most extreme objects, observing physical processes far beyond the capabilities of earthbound laboratories.

The GLAST observatory utilizes two main instruments, the large area telescope (LAT) and a GLAST burst monitor (GBM). The GLAST LAT will provide unprecedented sensitivity to gamma rays in the energy range of approximately 20 MeV to 300 GeV.

The GLAST burst monitor was selected as a complimentary instrument for the GLAST mission and will be sensitive to X-rays and gamma rays with energies between 8 KeV and 25 MeV.

The combination of the GBM and the LAT provides a powerful tool for studying gamma-ray bursts, particularly for time-resolved spectral studies over a very large energy band.

GLAST’s main instrument, the LAT, operates like a particle detector rather than a conventional telescope. It is 30 times more sensitive (and even more at higher energies) than the best previous missions, enabling it to detect thousands of new gamma-ray sources while extending our knowledge of previously unidentified sources.

It will study how some black holes accelerate matter to near light speed and perhaps even reveal the nature of dark matter. The other instrument, the GLAST GBM, will detect roughly 200 gamma-ray bursts per year. Together with the LAT, the GBM will enable GLAST to make gamma-ray burst observations spanning a factor of a million in energy.

‘These two instruments and the spacecraft have now been integrated and are working together as a single observatory,’ said GLAST project manager Kevin Grady of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

‘The observatory is getting ready for the final testing in the simulated environment of space, so that any problems can be fixed to ensure that it will work when we launch it,’ added Kathleen Turner, the LAT program manager at the United States Department of Energy.

The Department of Energy helped build the LAT in collaboration with other institutions in the United States, France, Italy, Japan, and Sweden. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, built the GBM in collaboration with institutes in Germany.

Re-live the launch updates on the live event pages, linked above.

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