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Long Legacy of Defense Support Program Continues With Successful Launch of Delta IV Rocket

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. -- A Delta IV Heavy Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle lifts off from Space Launch Complex 37B Nov. 10 carrying the last Defense Support Program into orbit. (United Launch Alliance photo by Carleton Bailie. Used with permission)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. -- A Delta IV Heavy Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle lifts off from Space Launch Complex 37B Nov. 10 carrying the last Defense Support Program into orbit. (United Launch Alliance photo by Carleton Bailie. Used with permission)

The last DSP satellite rockets towards space aboard a Delta IV Heavy, Nov. 11. (Photo by Ben Cooper, Spaceflight Now)

The last DSP satellite rockets towards space aboard a Delta IV Heavy, Nov. 11. (Photo by Ben Cooper, Spaceflight Now)

DSP Launch

A Delta IV Heavy sits on the launcg pad awaiting launch. The rocket carriedd the final DSP satellite into space.

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. -- The Air Force successfully launched the final Defense Support Program satellite 23 into space atop a giant Delta IV Heavy Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle from Pad 37B here at 8:50 p.m. EDT last evening. This launch marked the first use of the Delta IV HLV for an operational mission on a day honoring our nation's veterans. 

After a four minute ascent the powerful rocket jettisoned its two strap-on boosters allowing the rocket's remaining RS-68 main engine to continue for another minute and twenty seconds before cutting off. 

Approximately 20 seconds later at an altitude of 85 nautical miles and a velocity of 22,000 feet per second, the second stage RL-10 engine ignited followed by payload fairing jettison at six minutes into flight. 

The second stage engine completed three separate burns during the six- hour transfer to the target orbit. Spacecraft separation occurred at 3:10 a.m. EDT "Last night's successful countdown and flight culminate a tremendous amount of hard work by the entire Air Force launch team and our industry partners. Congratulations to all who made this challenging and spectacular launch of the DSP-23 satellite a reality, said Col. James Planeaux, SMC's Launch and Range Systems Wing Delta Group Commander. 
The capabilities it will bring to our nation make it a fitting way to commemorate this Veteran's Day weekend. As the first operational launch of a Delta IV Heavy Lift Vehicle, it marks a major milestone accomplishment for the EELV program and for assured access to space, during a historic anniversary year for the Air Force and Air Force Space Command." 

The launch of this final DSP satellite carried with it the dreams of many people on the DSP launch team both past and present. Their dedication led to DSP providing 37 years of unblinking ICBM early warning capability in support of our national defense. The first DSP satellite was launched on November 6, 1970.

"The successful launch and activation of DSP Flight 23 is a fitting tribute to an outstanding legacy of DSP mission success enjoyed over nearly four decades. DSP's contribution to U.S. national security space cannot be overstated, said Col. Roger Teague, Commander, SBIRS Space Group at SMC. 

Since inception, our homeland and deployed forces around the world have been continually reassured with the comforting knowledge that a vigilant ballistic missile detection and early warning system was on-watch; acquired, operated, and maintained by the best professionals in the world. "Team DSP" stands tall today and should be justifiably proud of this tremendous milestone." 

While DSP-23 is the last in an illustrious line of missile warning satellites, DSP satellites will continue to provide many years of national defense support as part of the follow-on Space- Based Infrared System Constellation. 

DSP will be part of a blended constellation including SBIRS highly elliptical orbit and geosynchronous orbit satellites. Command and control of the blended missile warning constellation will be performed by the 2nd Space Warning Squadron at Buckley AFB, Colorado. 

The launch team made up of Space and Missile Systems Center's Space-Based Infrared Systems Wing and Launch and Range Systems Wing, the 45th, Space Wing, Northrop Grumman Space Technologies, Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, The Aerospace Corporation and the United Launch Alliance, along with secondary mission partners, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory, made this successful DSP-23 mission the first operational satellite launch atop a Delta IV Heavy Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle. 

The Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., is the U.S. Air Force's center of acquisition excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems including six wings and three groups responsible for GPS, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control network, space-based infrared systems, intercontinental ballistic missile systems and space situational awareness capabilities. SMC manages more than $60 billion in contracts, executes annual budgets of $10 billion and employs more than 6,800 people worldwide. 

Media representatives can submit requests for information regarding this topic by sending an email to: smcpa.media@losangeles.af.mil