CAPE CANAVERAL - The 23rd and last defense satellite of its kind is back on schedule for a mid-August launch, after damage to pad 37 delayed the launch.

 

Carried to a 23,000-mile orbit on a Delta IV Heavy rocket, DSP-23 will be the last of a series of spacecraft first launched in 1970. The DSP satellites help detect missile or spacecraft launches and nuclear explosions using sensors that record infrared emissions from these intense sources of heat.

 

During Desert Storm, the satellite system marked the launches of Iraqi Scud missiles and provided warnings to civilians and military forces in Israel and Saudi Arabia.

 

The launch, originally scheduled for March, was delayed when two structural cracks were found in the metal launch table at pad 37.

 

An investigation found that a liquid oxygen leak during a countdown test exposed the launch table to super-cold temperatures, most likely causing the cracks. The leak appeared to be from vacuum jacketed liquid oxygen propellant lines inside the launch table, which are used to fill the booster tanks. The lines were replaced in 2006, but a cause for the leak has not been determined.

 

Repairs are on schedule, said Mike Rein, spokesman for United Launch Alliance.

 

The 5,000-pound satellite will be carried into orbit aboard ULA's Delta IV Heavy, which is configured by binding three Delta IV common core rocket boosters together.

 

It will be only the second Delta IV Heavy to blast off from the Cape. The first launch was in December 2004, when the maiden flight failed to deliver its payload to the desired orbit -- missing one of the test mission's eight objectives.


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