A Delta II booster lifted Boeing's morale on 10 June, when a successful launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, placed four Globalstar satellites into orbit. It was the first launch since the Delta III mission failed in May.

The Delta II is lined up for four more missions this summer, starting with a flight from Cape Canaveral on 23 June to place a NASA science satellite into orbit. After that, three consecutive Delta II flights, each carrying four Globalstar satellites, are planned for 2 July and 6 and 15 August.

Also, NASA has contracted Boeing to supply a hybrid Delta booster to launch its Space Infrared Telescope Facility. The booster is a Delta II with nine large strap-on boosters from the Delta III.

The booster is also available to commercial customers for launching 2,030kg (4,470lb) payloads into geostationary transfer orbit, an increase of over 200kg on the standard Delta II's payload.

Meanwhile, the investigation into the cause of the second Delta III failure is focused on hardware on the second stage engine, says Dave Schweikle, division director, Delta Launch Services and Program Development.

The Delta III's future is secure until 2003, even though the Delta IV booster, which will have a similar capability to the Delta III, is heading towards a first flight in 2001, says Schweikle. The Delta III is a testbed for Delta IV components, especially the second stage engine, he adds.

Source: Flight International