Boeing's Delta III shines after back-to-back flops
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP)--Boeing's newest Delta III
rocket successfully delivered a dummy satellite to
orbit during a critical test flight today after
back-to- back failures.
It was the first successful launch of a Delta III.
Boeing spent the past year revamping the program to
prevent another embarrassing--and costly--flop.
Everything went well as the $85 million rocket lifted
off just after 7 a.m. and arced out over the Atlantic.
On board was a 5.5-foot steel spool designed to mimic
the satellite that flew on the last Delta III and
wound up in the wrong orbit.
The spool reached the proper orbit a half-hour later,
right on schedule.
Anxiety was high among Boeing workers who had been
working round the clock for weeks to prepare for this
flight. The rocket is essential in order for Boeing to
capture more of the launch market.
"I really feel the world is watching us," Jay
Witzling, vice president of the Delta III program,
said before the launch. "We all want to see success so
that we can bring some of these payloads that are
flying on off-shore launchers back to the U.S."
Despite the high stakes, Witzling said he did not view
the mission as "a make-or-break" for Boeing.
A dummy satellite was launched because the company
wanted to prove the rocket's reliability and was
reluctant to wait for a paying customer.
"We felt we needed to get this behind us," said chief
engineer Rick Arvesen.
The satellite will serve some scientific purpose. The
Air Force had black stripes painted on the 9,500-pound
white spool to track it in orbit as part of a test.
The first Delta III, in 1998, carried a broadcasting
satellite that was destroyed along with the rocket in
an explosion after launch. Flawed computer software
was to blame. The second flight, in 1999, left a
communication satellite in a useless orbit when an
engine combustion chamber ruptured.
The failures were part of an unrelated string of
botched U.S. launches that grounded certain rockets
The Delta III losses, alone, exceeded $450 million.
Millions more were spent on the ensuing
Boeing hopes to launch its next Delta III next year.
Company officials in Huntington Beach, Calif.,
envision an annual flight rate of four to six
beginning in 2002, and expect the Delta III to be
replaced by the yet-untested Delta IV by 2005.
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