Engineers readied the first of 20 new Delta 2 rockets for a delayed maiden blastoff Tuesday to hurl a $65 million navigation satellite into orbit and to open a new era for the military space program.
The 128-foot, three-stage rocket had been scheduled to take off Sunday from launch complex 17A at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, but unexpected high-altitude winds prompted Air Force managers to delay the flight 48 hours. Conditions were expected to be acceptable at launch time Tuesday.Mounted atop the $30 million rocket was the first of a new generation of Global Positioning System - GPS - navigation satellites that will allow military forces on the ground, at sea and in the air to determine their location and altitude to within about 53 feet anywhere in the world.
The Delta 2's job was to place the GPS satellite into an elliptical "transfer orbit." If all goes well, an on-board solid-fuel rocket will fire later this week to put the satellite in a circular 12-hour orbit 12,500 miles up.