ULA Delta II launches with COSMO-3

by Chris Bergin

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II launch vehicle has launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) with COSMO-3, the third satellite of the COSMO-SkyMed (Constellation of Small Satellites for Mediterranean basin Observation) constellation. Launch was on schedule at 10:28 pm EDT.


ULA is provided the Delta II launch vehicle and mission services under a commercial launch service contract administered by Boeing Launch Services for Thales Alenia Space, Italia (TAS-I).

“ULA is pleased to have successfully launched the third of four critical Earth observation systems in this series for Boeing and Thales Alenia Space,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Delta Product Line.

“With this 43rd successful commercial launch, the Delta II system continues its record of mission success, which is unparalleled in the U.S. space industry. This achievement is due to the hard work of our professional engineers and technicians along with the tremendous support we receive from our government, industry, and supplier mission partners. We look forward to many more Delta II launches in the years ahead.”

The Delta II utilized to launch COSMO-3 was the 7420-10 configuration – a two stage vehicle with four GEM strap-on solid motors and a 10 foot diameter composite fairing. The Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RS-27A main engine on the first stage is powered by liquid oxygen and RP-1 (kerosene).

The Delta II delivered the 4,200 pound COSMO-3 into a circular sun-synchronous orbit – following 58 minutes of flight to spacecraft separation – phased on the same orbital plane as COSMO-1 and COSMO-2, where COSMO-3 will begin its mission of data observation and data recording for the needs of both the military and civil community.

COSMO-1 and COSMO-2, the first two COSMO-SkyMed satellites, were launched by the Delta II in June 2007 and December 2007, respectively.

COSMO-SkyMed, the new system for Earth observation, entirely developed and produced in Italy, is based on a constellation of four radar satellites.

Each satellite is equipped with a high-resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) operating in X-band and flexible and innovative transmission equipment for the high-speed downlink of the acquired data to the receiving ground stations.

The system ground segment consists of infrastructures devoted to the management of the constellation (Mission Planning and Control Center and Satellite Control Center), services for the management and planning of the user requests, and services for the gathering, processing, archiving, and distribution of data to the users.

The COSMO-SkyMed system’s civil applications consist of monitoring coastlines, seas and internal waters; agricultural monitoring to check on harvests and manage treatment cycles; cartography using images with a resolution in the order of one meter.

The dual-use – civilian and military – of the system will also allow for official applications for territorial protection and strategic defense.

With five years nominal lifetime expected of each satellite, their schedule will allow at least three years of a fully operational space segment via the eventual constellation of four satellites.

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