A satellite lofted into space by a new generation of booster rockets built by Hercules Inc. in Magna was in orbit Tuesday and undergoing its routine checkout.
"Everything is nominal (normal) at this point," Lt. Col. Jim Jannette, director of public affairs at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., told the Deseret News in a telephone interview Tuesday.The satellite is part of the Air Force Navstar Global Positioning Systems, which allows users with portable computers and radios to quickly determine their exact longitude and latitude. As Jannette said, this can be done at any time of the day or night.
Navstar satellites are used by boat navigators, military units, surveyors, mapmakers and others. Hikers can carry backpack devices that will give a fix on their positions; some commercial equipment used for Navstar positioning is available at around $5,000, according to news articles.
The Delta II rocket carrying the satellite, powered by Hercules' solid rocket boosters, lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 2:32 p.m. MST, Monday. It marked Hercules' entry into the market for medium-size space vehicles.
Instead of the older steel-jacketed rocket motors, the Delta II uses a durable and lightweight graphite epoxy case - also manufactured by Hercules - for the motors. Nine boosters were used: six lifted the rocket from the launch pad, and three others fired a minute later to blast it into orbit.
Don Sticinski, Hercules' vice president for dependable launch vehicles, said the flight is "a milestone event which demonstrates our company's ability to produce a reliable, cost-effective, rocket motor which provides added capabilities to America's space program."
The prime contractor for the project, McDonnell Douglas Corp., and Hercules have been involved in the program since February 1987.
The new graphite-epoxy motors are six feet longer than the motors they replaced, which had steel cases. They increase the Delta II's lift capacity by 15 percent.
According to Hercules, the composite material is lighter than steel but just as strong.
Bacchus West, the Hercules facility where the motors were built, "features the first large-scale application of robotics technologies to propellant mixing and casting operations," said Ron Peterson, vice president and general manager of space and strategic propulsion for Hercules. This "ensures reproducibility, low cost and operational safety."
One of the unusual features of the new motors is they are produced by an automated system, with one mixing of fuel per motor.
The Delta II is able to lift more than 4,000 pounds into geosynchronous orbit. McDonnell Douglas now has a capability to launch Delta II rockets at a rate of 12 per year.
The company anticipates that four to six launches yearly will be for civil and commercial customers, say Hercules officials.