It’s being called the end of an era at Vandenberg Air Force Base with the final launch of the Delta II rocket planned for this coming Saturday.
The Delta II has been a workhorse for NASA and its partners in the United Launch Alliance since its initial launch in 1989.
The Delta II rocket has been used over the years to launch GPS, military and weather satellites as well as for the Mars Rover missions, commercial communications and earth imaging satellites.
The planned final launch of the Delta II on Saturday at Vandenberg AFB is a special moment for those who designed and built Delta rockets over the years including 100 year old Edward Monteath of Paso Robles who was part of the original team that helped develop the Delta Rocket program for NASA.
“We were asked to do things that no one had ever done before, we didn’t realize it was something that important”, Monteath recalls of those early years working for NASA contractor Rocketdyne, “it was a job, somebody said do this and I went to work and did it. How we did it? I guess we just worked hard and put our minds to it, I turned out to be a rocket scientist, I didn’t think I was going to do that.”
Edward Monteath is a World War II veteran aviator who flew F6F Hellcat fighter plane combat missions in the Pacific.
Monteath went on to work with the original team of NASA astronauts in the historic Mercury and Apollo space missions.
Monteath says he hopes NASA and the United States will continue to push the envelope in space exploration and space launch possibilities.
“I’m sure there are people in NASA and the Air Force that are looking ahead and other things to do, from my experience I never could have imagined what I was ever getting into”, Monteath said, “I had a job to do, develop an engine and I had no idea that we would end up going to the Moon, Space Shuttle and everything like that stuff, I’m sure people are working on it in the area today and with the same attitude that something is going to happen in the future and let’s plan on something, I don’t know what it is, let’s put our heads together and continue, there’s a lot more to be done in space.”
Saturday’s planned final launch of the Delta II rocket will carry a payload of sophisticated earth imaging satellites.
Here’s part of the most recent press release on the final Delta II launch from United Launch Alliance:
“A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II rocket is in final preparations to launch NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) spacecraft from Space Launch Complex-2 on Sept. 15.”
“This is the end of an era, as we prepare to launch the final Delta II rocket,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. “This vehicle has truly created a legacy throughout its history launching NASA, critical U.S. military satellites and commercial clients.”
“ICESat-2, with its single instrument, the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS), will provide scientists with height measurements to create a global portrait of Earth’s third dimension, gathering data that can precisely track changes of terrain including glaciers, sea ice, forests and more. Northrop Grumman built the spacecraft. In addition to ICESat-2, this mission includes four CubeSats which will launch from dispensers mounted to the Delta II second stage.”