SpaceX and United Launch Alliance Simultaneously Launch Rockets from Both Coasts
In a remarkable display of space activity, SpaceX and United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully launched rockets from opposite ends of the United States. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket took off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, carrying 47 additional Starlink internet satellites. Shortly after, ULA’s Delta 4 Heavy rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, carrying a classified National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite.
The Falcon 9 launch occurred at 3:19 a.m. EDT, with the reusable first stage booster making its fourth flight. After 19 minutes, the Starlink satellites were deployed, adding to SpaceX’s growing constellation of broadband relay stations. This launch brings the total number of Starlinks launched to 4,642, with 976 launched this year alone.
Two hours later, at 5:18 a.m., ULA’s Delta 4 Heavy made its impressive pre-dawn ascent from Cape Canaveral. The launch had experienced a one-day delay due to a valve issue and weather conditions. However, the skies cleared, allowing the rocket to take off smoothly under optimal conditions.
The Delta 4 Heavy, powered by three Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A engines, accelerated gracefully as it shed weight and soared over the Atlantic Ocean with 2.1 million pounds of thrust. The outboard common core boosters were jettisoned four minutes into the flight, followed by the central core booster 90 seconds later. The second stage of the rocket, propelled by a single RL10 engine, continued the mission.
Unlike SpaceX’s reusable Falcon rockets, the Delta’s boosters are not recoverable, and all three stages plunged into the ocean upon separation. As per standard practice for classified missions, ULA ended its commentary and webcast after the ignition of the second stage engine, maintaining secrecy about the payload’s details, trajectory, and final destination.
These successful launches highlight the significance of placing critical capabilities into orbit for national security and allied interests. With the space community experiencing dynamic times, the launch teams at SpaceX and ULA demonstrated their expertise and dedication.
This launch marked the 44th Delta 4 mission and the 15th launch of the Delta 4 Heavy variant since its inaugural flight in 2004. As ULA transitions to the new Vulcan rockets, only one more Delta 4 Heavy remains in the company’s inventory, along with the retirement of the Atlas 5 and Delta 4 families.