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Last DSP satellite mated to first Delta IV

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. -- History will soon be made at Space Launch Complex (SLC)-37 at Cape Canaveral AFS with the launch of the first operational payload on a Delta IV Heavy Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle.

The payload, the last Defense Support Program satellite, was mated to the booster Sept. 25.

"The operation began with moving the 20,000 pound encapsulated satellite stack from the Spacecraft Processing Integration Facility to the launch complex." said Capt. Adrian Galang of the 5th Launch Squadron. "While only traveling a distance of six miles, the speed limit of 5 mph meant the journey took more than two and a half hours."

Once at Complex 37 the satellite was hoisted 175 feet to the top of the booster. Staff Sgt. Joshua Pope was the maintenance engineer personnel in charge of observing the mating operation.

"The lift from the pad deck level to the top of the Delta IV Heavy took less than 25 minutes," said Sergeant Pope. "However, the intricate process of positioning, aligning, and mating the encapsulated payload to the second stage took several hours."

Now that the mating process is completed, the major operations remaining include a simulated flight software and hardware test, a payload interface test, ordnance and battery installation, and final mechanical and electrical readiness checks, according to Captain Galang. The launch is currently scheduled for November.

The Delta IV Heavy was chosen for this mission because of its ability to get the satellite into geosynchronous orbit. "Currently, the Delta IV Heavy is the nation's only heavy-lift capability," said Lt. Col. Kent Nickle, the Director of Operations for the 5th SLS. "Additionally, this launch (the second of the heavy configuration) will further reduce risk for all future Delta IV heavy missions," said Colonel Nickle.