Fresh off of the historic launch of an Alabama-built rocket in August, NASA once again counted on Alabama craftsmanship to send its latest earth-studying satellite into space.
NASA successfully launched its Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California on Saturday morning. The satellite will have the capability of measuring the dimensions of ice and land masses within four millimeters.
The satellite lifted off on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II rocket built at the company’s Decatur, Alabama manufacturing facility.
The occasion also marked the end of an era in the rocket industry for the Delta II. This was the 155th and final flight of the Delta II. Missions will now shift to the newer Atlas V and Delta IV, also manufactured at the ULA facility in Decatur.
The Delta II was first launched into service on February 14, 1989, successfully delivering the first operational satellite in the Global Positioning System.
Those using Delta II over the course of its three decades of service included the United States military, NASA and commercial clients.
This was ULA’s seventh launch in 2018 and 130th launch since the company’s formation in 2006.
ULA’s rocket manufacturing plant in Alabama is 1.6 million square feet and is the largest such facility in the Western Hemisphere.
NASA has already announced a plan to resume manned space missions. ULA rockets from Alabama will power those missions as well.
ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno accompanied the astronauts for those missions to Decatur to see the rockets that will send them to space.
“It was great for the astronauts to see it, touch it and ask how it is put together,” said Bruno.
Astronaut Josh Cassada was among those who toured the Decatur plant.
“A few of us had a chance to fly up to Alabama and meet some of the most talented, hardworking men and women at ULA who are building our rocket, and I’ll tell you, we are in great hands,” said Cassada.