Air Force Space and Missile Museum
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Delta Rocket Program

Delta II model

Display location: Museum exhibit hall

One of the longest running and most successful launch vehicle programs at the Cape is the Delta. Based on the U.S. Air Force Thor Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM), the Delta II was one of the most recognizable boosters with its distinctive green color and ring of graphite epoxy motors (GEMs) around the base.

Delta played a principal role in America's space program and built a strong reputation for excellence through its overall reliability and performance. The Delta II launch vehicle evolved over more than fifty years as a workhorse space transporter that continually improved in its capability to launch larger and heavier spacecraft while maintaining high reliability to meet the growing needs of spacecraft customers.

A large measure of Delta's success was due to the diligence and attention to detail by the entire launch site team. Delta launch site processing began with the arrival of major launch vehicle elements from manufacturing and assembly facilities located in several areas of the country. A carefully pre-planned sequence of operations was performed on the vehicle elements to ready them for transport to launch pads 17A and 17B. Erection and mating tasks accomplished the integration of Delta's three stages, solid rocket boosters, spacecraft, and spacecraft fairing. Checkout and launch activities assured all Delta and associated ground support systems were correctly functioning prior to a Delta launch.

The list of all Delta payloads is long and includes all early Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, Martian rovers "Spirit" and "Opportunity", the early communications satellites "Relay" and "Telstar", and the early weather satellite "Tiros". Unless a future mission is scheduled, the final Delta launch from the Cape took place from Pad 17A on 10 September 2011, when the GRAIL lunar mission was launched by a Delta II.

The latest addition to the Delta family tree is the Delta IV, which is a far larger and completely new launch vehicle.