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Delta 4 Heavy launch comes up short
Posted: Wed, Dec 22, 2004, 10:30 AM ET (1530 GMT)
Delta 4 Heavy liftoff on first flight (Boeing) The first Delta 4 Heavy launch vehicle lifted off Tuesday afternoon but a problem with the vehicle's first stage has apparently kept the vehicle from deploying its payload in the proper orbit. The vehicle lifted off from pad 37B at Cape Canaveral at 4:50 pm EST (2150 GMT), more than two hours into a three-hour launch window because of minor problems during pre-launch preparations, and initially the launch appeared to be normal. However, the Delta 4's first stage — three identical core boosters — shut down eight seconds earlier than expected. To compensate, the upper stage fired longer than planned during the second of three burns needed to place the primary payload, a demonstration satellite, into geosynchronous orbit, and as a result ran out of propellant during the final burn. Contact has also not been established with two nanosatellites that were deployed from the booster 16 minutes after launch. Despite the underperformance of the first stage, Boeing officials said they, as well as the Air Force, who paid for the flight, were pleased with the launch.
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