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Delta IV to launch on Saturday night

By Eric Fleischauer 340-2435

A Decatur-made rocket scheduled for launch Saturday evening will be only the second Delta IV Heavy launched by United Launch Alliance.

Adding to the usual tension for ULA employees: ULA's first Delta IV launch was tarnished when the test satellite deployed in the wrong orbit. The problem was not caused by ULA, but it has government officials watching closely.

The launch, from Cape Cana-veral Air Force Station, is scheduled for a launch window that opens at 7:39 p.m. and closes at 9:42 CST.

To view a webcast of the launch, go to

The Delta IV Heavy rocket will launch a satellite for the Air Force Defense Support Program. Called the DSP-23, the satellite will be part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command Tactical Warning and Attack Assessment System.

The satellite, built by Northrop-Grumman, uses infrared sensors to detect heat from missile and booster plumes against the Earth's background.

The 5,179-pound spacecraft is designed to provide early detection and warning of missile launches and nuclear explosions.

Twelve minutes after launch, the Delta IV will be traveling at 18,000 mph.

"Every launch is important," said ULA spokesman Doug Shores, "but this one is especially important because it's only the second Delta IV Heavy. Our employees and everyone with ULA will be watching this one closely. It should be exciting."

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