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Alabama-built rocket powers historic launch

If you ever want to know how something gets into space, spend time with the people involved in the mission on the day of a launch. The anticipation and excitement in their voices and on their faces tells you everything you need to know.

People make it possible.

And, this morning, it was people from Alabama’s turn to send something to space.

Early Sunday, the Parker Solar Probe lifted off in Cape Canaveral, FL, atop United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy rocket built in Decatur, AL.

The rocket from ULA’s Decatur plant will allow the Parker probe to fly seven times closer to the sun and more effectively study solar winds, which disrupt satellites and cause power outages.

ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno told Yellowhammer News on Friday that the Delta IV rocket is a critical component of the overall mission.

“The Delta IV is the only rocket in the world that can deliver the type of precision accuracy required of a mission like this,” said Bruno.

Bruno was quick to point out, though, that it is really about the people.

“People are the greatest assets we have,” said Bruno.

Bruno has spent considerable time at ULA’s Decatur plant and has come away impressed each time.

“We have great craftsmen at our Decatur facility,” Bruno was quick to mention. “These big rockets are handcrafted machines, and there is no substitute for skilled technicians.”

The role of Alabama’s workforce in this mission cannot be understated, Bruno believes.

“Decatur built this rocket,” he said. “The work done there makes this mission possible. Alabama’s workforce is wonderful.”

ULA’s rocket manufacturing plant in Alabama is 1.6 million square feet and is the largest such facility in the Western Hemisphere.

This morning’s launch is the culmination of years of effort by those involved. NASA started working on the Parker Solar Probe mission in 2006.

Yet Alabama’s participation in the country’s renewed interest in space will only increase.

Last week, NASA announced a plan to resume manned missions. ULA rockets from Alabama will power those missions as well.

Bruno accompanied the astronauts for those missions to Decatur to see the rockets that will send them into space.

“It was great for the astronauts to see it, touch it and ask how it is put together,” said Bruno.

Add astronaut Josh Cassada to the list of those recognizing the importance of the Alabama workforce to America’s future in space.

“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.