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Second-to-last Delta IV Heavy aims to take flight early Thursday

 The penultimate Delta IV Heavy rolls to its launch pad
United Launch Alliance
The Mobile Service Tower (MST) rolls back from the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the NROL-68 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in preparation for launch from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida.

One of the last launches of United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy rocket is set to take flight in the early morning hours Thursday from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Thursday's launch is scheduled for 3:25 a.m. and weather remains favorable.

An attempt to launch Wednesday morning was delayed due to "an issue with a ground systems pneumatic valve," ULA said in a statement.

It’s the penultimate mission of the Delta IV Heavy rocket, which is powered by three boosters, each providing 705,250 pounds of thrust.

This will be the 15th Delta IV Heavy mission. The rocket launched NASA's EFT-1 mission in 2014, a critical testflight of the agency's Orion spacecraft, designed to take astronauts to the moon. It also sent NASA's Parker Solar Probe in 2018 on a mission to "touch" the sun by flying near the star's atmosphere.

The upcoming mission will launch a secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, which provides intelligence to U.S. policy makers, the intelligence community, and Department of Defense.

The final Delta IV Heavy rocket is earmarked for another NRO mission, launching sometime next year. ULA is debuting a new rocket this year called Vulcan which the company said can continue to support missions previously launched on its Delta IV Heavy.

Brendan Byrne is Central Florida Public Media's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing the organization's internship program. Byrne also hosts Central Florida Public Media's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration, and the weekly news roundup podcast "The Wrap."
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