Private aerospace company United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Medium rocket launched Thursday from eastern Florida on its final mission, carrying a GPS satellite for the United States Air Force as its payload.
The veteran rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 37 at 9.06 am (1306 GMT) for its 29th and final voyage and the 135th carried out by ULA, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin whose launch customers include the US Department of Defense.
An hour and 55 minutes after liftoff, the rocket delivered the GPS III SV02 Magellan satellite to its targeted orbit.
"Thank you to the team and our mission partners for the tremendous teamwork as we processed and launched this critical asset, providing advanced capabilities for warfighters, civil users and humankind across the globe," Gary Wentz, ULA's vice president of Government and Commercial Programs, was quoted as saying in a news release.
"We are proud of the strong legacy of the Delta IV Medium program and look forward to the future with our purpose-built Vulcan Centaur," he added.
With the phasing out of the Delta IV Medium, the ULA over the short term will only be using that rocket's larger cousin - the triple-barreled Delta IV Heavy, the world's second-largest by capacity - to ferry payloads into space.
The Delta IV Medium on Thursday transported a second satellite of the GPS III Magellan navigation system, which was built by Lockheed Martin for the US Air Force's Space and Missile Systems Center.
The GPS III system represents the next step in the modernization of the global navigation network, featuring a new generation of satellites that offer improved accuracy, better jam resistance and a new signal for civil users, ULA said in the release.
In the medium term, ULA will completely abandon the Delta line it has used since 2002 and focus on developing its Vulcan Centaur line of reusable rockets, which will ferry both medium and heavy payloads into space.
"Today marks the final launch of the single-core Delta IV Medium rocket as we begin the transition to the future Vulcan Centaur," the company said Thursday on Twitter. EFE-EPA