Final Delta IV Heavy Rocket Launched

National Reconnaissance Office
Chantilly, VA

The National Reconnaissance Office, in partnership with U.S. Space Force Space Launch Delta 45, Space Systems Command, and United Launch Alliance, successfully launched the NROL-70 mission on April 9, 2024, at 12:53 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

This launch marks the end of an era as it is the final Delta IV Heavy rocket and the end of the Delta program. The NROL-70 mission puts into orbit a national security payload that will deliver critical space-based information to our nation’s warfighters, intelligence analysts, and decision makers. It is the latest asset in the NRO’s ongoing initiative to develop the most capable, diverse, and resilient overhead constellation in its history.

“All of our missions are important, but this one feels even more special,” said Dr. Chris Scolese, director of the NRO. “The launch of the final Delta IV Heavy marks the end of one era and the beginning of a new one. As our mission needs evolve, we are excited to be developing innovative partnerships that allow for new launch vehicles and new launch locations. This will enhance our resilience by providing more options for putting critical capabilities into orbit.”

The Delta IV Heavy was built by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Twelve of these rockets have carried NRO missions, starting with NROL-26, which launched from Cape Canaveral on Jan. 17, 2009. During the NRO’s 15-year history with the Delta IV Heavy, seven missions, including NROL-70, launched from Cape Canaveral; and five missions launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, the most recent being NROL-91 in 2022.

The broader Delta program began in the late 1950s and launched its first space vehicle in August 1960. “Launching the last Delta IV is bittersweet for me,” said Col. Eric Zarybnisky, Director of NRO’s Office of Space Launch. “I was part of the NROL-22 team that launched the first Delta IV for the NRO. Since that time, the Delta IV has put amazing capability on orbit for this nation.”

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