Missions for the launcher are scheduled through to 2009 but manufacturer seeks business beyond that date

A Boeing Delta II rocket successfully launched two spacecraft from Vandenberg AFB, California on 7 December, marking the last of seven Delta launches this year and the 100th Delta II mission overall.

The launch also marked the second use on a Delta II of a dual payload attachment fitting made by European space company Astrium to enable the deployment of the two spacecraft, Jason-1 and Thermosphere Ionosphere Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics (TIMED) satellite. Jason-1 will monitor global ocean circulation to aid in climatic prediction and is a joint effort between NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the French space agency, CNES.

The TIMED is a joint programme between NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. TIMED will explore conditions in the largely unstudied reaches of the upper atmosphere between 37 and 112 miles (60 and 180km) altitude to help in the prediction of low-earth orbiting satellite dynamics and map possible greenhouse effect climatic phenomena.

The spacecraft uses four main sensors, one of which, called SABER (Sounding of the Atmosphere using Broadband Emission Radiometry), is the first non-military variant of a previously classified TRW-made infrared radiometer sensor. The super-cooled, semi-mechanical device is configured with a pulsed tubed cooler developed for high-resolution surveillance satellites.

Boeing plans to launch the Delta II through to 2009, but says it would "like to see it keep flying as long as possible" if new business comes through. The company says decisions will have to be made sometime in 2003 on long lead production items for possible launches beyond the currently scheduled missions up until 2009.

Boeing medium expendable launch vehicle services programme manager Mike Henderson adds that hopes remain for further business for the Delta III, despite the fact there appears to be "no market demand for it".

Although scheduled to launch a NASA payload in January 2003 and another telecommunications satellite, Henderson says: "It is in a funny position because its capability is between the Delta II and IV medium weight." He adds that its hybrid construction using parts from other Delta family members makes its position more sustainable.

Source: Flight International