Press Release

United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches 36th Mission in 36 Months

By SpaceRef Editor
December 6, 2009
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Launching its 36th successful mission in 36 months, a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket delivered the Air Force’s third Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS-3) satellite into orbit at 8:47 p.m. EST, today. Launching from Space Launch Complex-37, WGS-3 joins the AF’s two other WGS satellites, which both launched on ULA Atlas V vehicles on Oct. 10, 2007, and Apr. 3, 2009.

ULA was formed on Dec. 1, 2006, as a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and The Boeing Company, bringing together two of the launch industry’s most experienced and successful teams — the Lockheed Martin Atlas and Boeing Delta teams — that had supported America’s presence in space for more than 50 years. ULA’s first launch occurred only 14 days later as a Delta II rocket launched NROL-21 from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., on Dec. 14, 2006. Since then, including today’s mission, 35 more successful launches have occurred from CCAFS and VAFB including 11 Atlas V, 21 Delta II, and four Delta IV missions. It’s noted that two of the four Delta IV missions were the Delta IV Heavy configuration, which launches three common booster cores at once.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our nearly 3,850 ULA employees and our many government partners whom I’m privileged to work with at ULA,” said Michael Gass, ULA President and Chief Executive Officer. “This team of people, with their combined expertise, is the reason for this sustained mission success. When we formed ULA in 2006, our primary mission was to the deliver the highest reliable products for assured access to space for our government and commercial customers. Launching successfully 36 times in our first 36 months of company history is a significant accomplishment as we celebrate our third anniversary.”

The WGS-3 mission is the third installment of the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) system. The WGS satellites are important elements of a new high-capacity satellite communications system providing enhanced communications capabilities to America’s troops in the field for the next decade and beyond. WGS enables more robust and flexible execution of Command and Control, Communications Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR), as well as battle management and combat support information functions. WGS-3 augments the existing service of the WGS-1 and WGS-2 satellites by providing additional information broadcast capabilities.

Jim Sponnick, ULA Vice President, Delta Product Line stated, “ULA congratulates the Air Force and our mission partners on the successful launch of WGS-3. It was appropriate the Air Force, which was one of the primary customers ULA was created to support, was the customer for today’s 36th launch in 36 months. WGS is also the first of the constellation of satellites to launch on both the Delta IV and Atlas V since the formation of ULA. This operational flexibility was a primary reason ULA was formed and we look forward to providing this capability to our government customers for decades to come.”
The mission was the first time the Delta IV Medium+ (5,4) configuration was launched using a single common booster core with a Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RS-68 main engine, four Alliant Techsystems GEM 60 solid rocket motors, a PWR RL10B-2 upper stage engine and a five-meter diameter upper stage and composite payload fairing.

ULA’s next launch, currently scheduled for Dec. 11, is a Delta II carrying the NASA Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission from Space Launch Complex-2 at VAFB with a launch window of 6:09-6:23 a.m., PST.

ULA program management, engineering, test and mission support functions are headquartered in Denver, Colo. Manufacturing, assembly and integration operations are located at Denver, Colo.; Decatur, Ala.; Harlingen, Texas; and San Diego, Calif. Launch operations are located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

For more information on the ULA joint venture, visit the ULA Web site at, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321).

SpaceRef staff editor.