Delta IV Heavy rocket successfully launches for final time from Florida

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket successfully launched the NROL-70 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) for the final time on Tuesday afternoon.

The rocket launched at 12:53 p.m. from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Central Florida. 

The launch marked the 16th and last launch of the Delta IV Heavy rocket series.

The rocket was originally set to lift off on March 28 but was scrubbed due to an issue with the gaseous nitrogen pipeline which provides pneumatic pressure to the launch vehicle systems.

ULA did not come across any issues ahead of liftoff and weather conditions were favorable. 

The Delta IV Heavy Launch vehicle started launching in 2002. All but four of its 16 missions were for the NRO. The penultimate liftoff of the rocket happened in June, launching the NROL-68 mission.

The rocket uses half a million gallons of fuel and has three side-by-side booster cores, each with Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A engines that provide a combined 2.1 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. 

ULA is replacing the Delta Heavy and the Atlas V with the new Vulcan rocket. The Atlas series uses Russian-made RD-180 engines. Vulcan uses American-made hardware, including Blue Origin and Aerojet Rocketdyne engines. 

The company’s inaugural Vulcan launch happened in January, launching Astrobotic’s robotic mission to the Moon. While Astrobotic’s mission did not ultimately reach the Moon, the lunar orbital assist from ULA went flawlessly, according to both companies.

FOX Weather contributed to this report.