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Delta IV puts last DSP satellite in precise orbit

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. -- The Delta IV Heavy booster that launched the final Defense Support Program into space here Nov. 10 put it into a spot in orbit that many are saying may be the most precise inject of a DSP satellite ever.

"The satellite was placed 35 nautical miles from the targeted apogee and six nautical miles from our targeted perigee. I'd call that spot on booster performance," said Capt. Adrian Galang, of the 5th Space Launch Squadron and Deputy Delta Lead for the Delta IV/DSP-23 mission.

"To me, that's like hitting a shot off the tee on a par five hole in golf and getting the ball within an inch from the hole. Just amazing," Capt. Galang added.

That the satellite was placed so close to its prescribed orbit means that it will likely require less on-orbit checkout time, possibly adding to its service life said Lt. Col. John Wagner, commander of the 45th Launch Support Squadron. "This could be the highest performing DSP ever as we can now focus on replenishing the older birds in the fleet with the SBIRS spacecraft," said Colonel Wagner, who spent three years on this mission as a flight commander at the DSP European Ground Station, "It has been a long two and a half years working toward numerous launch dates and involving some rework on our spacecraft side - but this success ultimately tells why our focus on mission assurance and mission success is so important."

Those words are like music to the ears of Lt. Col. Steve Steiner, commander of the 5th SLS and Air Force Launch Director for the mission. He says he has come full circle with this launch.

"Back in 1997 I was a young captain serving as a DSP crew commander at Buckley Air National Guard Base in Colorado," he said. "I 'watched dots' from the DSP satellites and notified NORAD of all missile/rocket launches-including those from the Cape. Now, 10 years later, I helped launch the last DSP so another young captain at Buckley much like myself can use the data from this spacecraft to provide our Nation missile warning, 24/7, 365 days a year."