back to article A Delta IV Heavy heads for space at last while New Horizons' fumes OK for 'future missions'

An expendable Delta IV Heavy finally took off at the weekend while reusability darlings SpaceX and Blue Origin both continued to suffer slippages. Meanwhile, New Horizons still has plenty of gas in the tank. Delta IV Heavy (finally) gets off the ground United Launch Alliance (ULA) was celebrating on 19 January, having finally …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Delta IV Heavy.

    It's a massive rocket. But SpaceX has just spoilt me. I'm bored with rocket launches now. XD

    1. STOP_FORTH Silver badge

      Re: The Delta IV Heavy.

      Agreed, synchronised landings are much more impressive.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: The Delta IV Heavy.

        I'm not sure you can easily get close enough to a synchronised landing to have your organs acoustically smoothied though.

      2. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: The Delta IV Heavy.

        > synchronised landings are much more impressive

        Holy crap they are... I saw that sh*t in person and I'm still not convinced it wasn't CGI. It was unreal to watch.

  2. jpo234

    > It would also severely erode the lead Musk's rocketeers have over arch-rivals Boeing, whose CST-100 Starliner capsule is due to take its own uncrewed flight atop an Atlas V in March.

    Latest whispers are, that the Starliner launch has already slipped to May.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      All first launches always slip. It's the law. So comparing with Boeing's planned date is a tad silly.

    2. Wellyboot Silver badge

      All first launch dates slip by quite a bit. This is just PR not keeping up with rocket reality1 :)

      Rocketstar are building an aerospike engine, a concept that is decades behind conventional rocket motors in maturity & requires a lot of development work before it becomes reliable enough for paying customers. Blue Origin are going from a reusable technology demo (Shepard) to Falcon Heavy competitor (Glenn) which is a big step. Best of luck to them both

      Space-X has taken the nearest thing to a risk free path, build a bog standard rocket2 for LEO insertions (Falcon-1), then make a bigger rocket capable of useful Geosynchronous insertions (Falcon-9), then make it reusable (the really hard bit!) to slash costs, then make it (much) bigger (Falcon-Heavy). What is astounding about Space-X is that it has managed all of these steps in only 18 years from start-up and is now fairly close to providing a bus timetable equivalent for launch dates.

      1 Lookup Virgin Galactic for world leading slippage.

      2 Not simple, a well known engineering model used since the 50's. (Atlas development is comparable)

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        a bus timetable

        Aha! That's why they need the synchronised landings. No problem when, after a long period of nothing happening, a load of launches come along together.

  3. PerlyKing Silver badge


    I always thought this was a cool idea, I hope that these guys can make it work!

    1. Steven Raith

      Re: Aerospike

      I concur - this is *far* more interesting than the current reusable mid/heavy launchers from a technical standpoint.

      Lots of good theory (and early testing) of Aerospike designs, but not much practical stuff that I'm aware of. Hopefully it'll be all kinds of cool.

      Steven R

      1. Baldrickk Silver badge

        Re: Aerospike

        Indeed, the science is there, practical application - not so much. If they can get it to work as intended, this will be a very interesting development.

  4. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    Rocket: Cowbell

    Excellent. If there's one thing that rocket science needs, it's more cowbell.

  5. Wolfclaw

    Rockstar - "launching small satellites, something it thought could happen "as early as the first quarter of 2018"." .. they introduced time travel too.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      They used to think that, but realised (probably about a year ago) that it was not going to be possible.

      Past future tense.

      1. Baldrickk Silver badge

        SpaceX also thought they would be slinging people around into space by now. They obviously are not.

        Slippage is to be expected for things like this. It's not just rocket science - it's rocket engineering.

  6. MAF


    Musk's rocketeers - surely we can abbreviate this further.

    I propose Musk-eteers...

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Abbreviation

      I thought El Reg had already used the term a number of times?

      EDIT a search on El Reg gives 50 results and a quick scan of obvious SpaceX stories shows it is already in use.

  7. John Sager

    So Bezos is going from a sub-orbital firework to a heavy launcher to match the big boys, in one step? Chutzpah! But I'm not taking the bet.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Doesn't going for a heavy vehicle mean ordinary launches will be more expensive. While there aren't all that many heavy launches happening nowadays. Though I accept that big cuts in prices might create some extra demand.

      Or is the plan to beat Musk to the punch and launch a bigger capsule that can open up and swallow everybody else's, then return them to one's extinct volcano of choice?

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        The US military regularly fly some really big lumps into orbit on the Atlas-V & Delta Heavy, there's a steady market for reliable heavy lift.

        The launch economics depend on how much you (and others) are wanting to lift & where to. if a Falcon-9 can carry only your payload to Geo-sync (max 8,200kg) then you'll pay for the whole flight, If ride sharing a Falcon-Heavy (max 26,700kg) with 2-3 other similar payloads comes in cheaper then that's what you'll use.

  8. FIA

    The rocket had remained stubbornly attached to the Earth after a number of failed attempts, including a particularly memorable last-second abort, which left the boosters looking a tad singed.

    Although the scorching in the picture shown was due to a pre launch fireball, which is aparently a quirk of the engine design.

  9. Spazturtle


    Thinks of aerospikes as inverted bells, the spike is one wall of the bell and atmospheric pressure provides the other wall, this means that as the rocket's altitude increases and the atmosphere thins the shape of the 'bell' changes allowing for maximum efficiency at all altitudes.

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