Source: http://lompocrecord.com/articles/2007/12/09/news/news02.txtDelta 2 rocket launches Italian satellite
(December 9, 2007)
By Janene Scully/Associate Editor
For the second time this year, a Delta 2 rocket with an Italian satellite blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base - delivering a big sales pitch for the team hoping to launch a fourth craft in the constellation.
Overcoming three delays, the United Launch Alliance rocket finally lifted off into a dark and mostly clear sky at 6:31 p.m. Saturday from Space Launch Complex-2.
The flame of the 12-story rocket created a bright beacon of light, illuminating the landscape until it looked like daylight for a few seconds, observers noted. As Delta climbed, the star-filled sky allowed onlookers to watch the vehicle's four solid rocket boosters fall away and see the flight long after it left the Central Coast.
“It takes a great deal of communications and teamwork to make a launch happen and the use of the Western Range by our Italian partners is rewarding for Team Vandenberg,” said Col. Steve Tanous, 30th Space Wing commander who also served as spacelift commander for Vandenberg's last launch of the year.
Delta carried the second COSMO-SkyMed, which stands for Constellation of Small Satellites for Mediterranean basin Observation. The radar-imaging satellite was manufactured by Thales Alenia Space for the Italian Space Agency and the Italian Ministry of Defense.
About an hour after the launch, officials confirmed the satellite had separated from the rocket, and that ground controllers were communicating with the craft.
“It's a 100 percent successful mission,” said Mike Rein, a United Launch Alliance spokesman.
A crowd of between 60 and 100 Italians, including high-level government and industry officials, had gathered this week at Vandenberg for Delta's departure.
“They cheered very loudly,” Rein added.
COSMO-1 launched into orbit from June 7 to cheers and tears of Italians at Vandenberg. Within a month Boeing officials has secured the contract to launch COSMO-3 to space on a Delta 2 rocket from Vandenberg.
That launch is scheduled for the second half of 2008.
COSMO-4 is the last of the four-satellite constellation and the American rocket firm is competing against the French rocket makers for the rights to carry the craft.
“Arianespace has been very vocal about also wanting an opportunity to bid for that particular mission so we'll see just how that goes,” said Ken Heinly, vice president of Boeing Launch Services.
He anticipates that the Italians will chose a launch provided early next year for what's expected to be a 2009 launch.
This mission also comes as United Launch Alliance marked on Dec. 1 the first anniversary of a marriage of Boeing and Lockheed Martin's expendable launch vehicle activities.
“One year ago, we officially opened our doors with our stated mission of providing the best expendable launch systems and services to assure access to space for our customers at a lower cost,” said Michael C. Gass, president and chief executive officer of ULA.
During its first year ULA saw 11 launches from both Vandenberg and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
“Now we're in the second year we've got to do better,” said Kris Walsh, ULA director of NASA and commercial programs for the Delta rocket.
The next Delta 2 rocket launch from Vandenberg is tentatively set for April. Also in the new year, ULA will debut the first West Coast Atlas 5 launch.