United Launch Alliance debuts first-ever 3D projection on a Delta IV Heavy rocket

Update for Aug. 29 at 3:45 a.m. EDT: Saturday morning's launch attempted was aborted a few seconds before liftoff. It's unclear at the moment when the next launch opportunity will come.

The United Launch Alliance's (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket shone in a spectacular 3D projection ahead of this week's satellite launch. 

The Delta IV Heavy rocket is scheduled to launch the NROL-44 spy satellite on Saturday (Aug. 29) at 2:04 a.m. EDT (0604 GMT) from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral in Florida. However, on Aug. 24, the spacecraft served as a backdrop for a 3D projection celebrating ULA's legacy and the company's successful delivery of 140 missions to orbit. 

"We are dreamers, inspired by possibilities not yet imagined; believers driven to harness the potential of space; leaders combining expertise and ingenuity — and it all started with a spark of the imagination," as stated in the video of the event

Related: Watch live tonight! Delta IV Heavy rocket to launch US spy satellite

ULA's Delta IV Heavy was the backdrop for a unique 3D projection that showcased the future of space exploration. The presentation took place at Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral in Florida.  (Image credit: United Launch Alliance)

The 3D presentation on started with an animated launch countdown of the Delta IV Heavy rocket. As the virtual spacecraft lifted off, the backdrop changed from blue skies to the starry landscape of space. 

The video showcased leaders in spaceflight, including John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, and highlighted the successes of the satellite industry and how advancing technologies have connected the world. This includes more accurate weather satellites, used to track dangerous storms or natural disasters and determine evacuation plans, as well as national security satellites and missions to the solar system and beyond. 

"Over the next decade, ULA will continue to protect life on Earth with the introduction of Vulcan Centaur, our next generation rocket — a rocket, purpose built for national security [and] founded on the Atlas and Delta legacy of success," according to the video. "With Vulcan Centaur, we are engineering limitless possibilities for a safer, more secure existence at home and in space." 

ULA's Aug. 29 launch marks the 12th flight of a Delta IV Heavy rocket since its debut in 2004. This week's vehicle is one of only five Delta rockets remaining as ULA plans to retire the launcher before rolling out Vulcan Centaur. The first operational flight for Vulcan Centaur is expected to be a private moon lander named Peregrine, which is slated to launch in 2021.  

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Samantha Mathewson
Contributing Writer

Samantha Mathewson joined Space.com as an intern in the summer of 2016. She received a B.A. in Journalism and Environmental Science at the University of New Haven, in Connecticut. Previously, her work has been published in Nature World News. When not writing or reading about science, Samantha enjoys traveling to new places and taking photos! You can follow her on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13.