back to article End of an era for ULA as the last Delta IV Medium rocket leaves launch pad

United Launch Alliance's last Delta IV Medium+ rocket has left the launch pad to put another GPS satellite in orbit. The end of the road for the Delta IV Medium+ has come after nearly 17 years as ULA looks to phase it, and the Atlas V, out in favour of the upcoming Vulcan Centaur booster in 2021. The Delta IV Medium line has …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Yeah, sure

    The USA is of course going to spring billions to help create a replica of something it already has simply because the UK was stupid enough to leave a political entity that was creating it and now the UK wants its own.

    I don't think that's going to happen, guys. You wanted out, you've got out.

    Of everything.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yeah, sure

      Can't find the link right now but pretty sure that we actually pushed for the strict rules on what 3rd countries could and could not have. "Hoist by our own petard" one could say.

      1. Jedit

        "Hoist by our own petard" one could say

        Is that the plan to get the UK satellites into orbit?

        1. MyffyW Silver badge

          Re: "Hoist by our own petard" one could say

          I think we decommissioned the last petard on 28 October 1971

          1. AdamT

            Re: "Hoist by our own petard" one could say

            In an ironic twist there are two relevant events on that day you could be referring to!

            October 28, 1971 (Thursday)

            - The British House of Commons votes 356–244 in favour of joining the European Economic Community.

            - The United Kingdom becomes the sixth nation to launch a satellite into orbit, the Prospero X-3, using a Black Arrow carrier rocket.

            (I presume you meant the latter...)

    2. streaky

      Re: Yeah, sure

      Sounds like they're doing what I said when the whole thing first kicked off which is that the all the five eyes countries should get together to develop the next generation of GPS on the basis of trust which you'll never get in the EU, even as a member. This stuff isn't complicated. The EU offered China far more access to their system than the UK asked for and offered money to sweeten it despite having already bankrolled it and provided basically all the technical expertise to build the thing, the EU is nonsense, has been proven nonsense and shall be forever thus.

      The UK already has M-code access to the GPS system and has done since the gulf war. We have more secret treaties with the US than the EU would know what to do with.

      1. Adair Silver badge

        Re: Yeah, sure

        Other points of view are available (and well worth considering - along with the facts - as objectively as possible).

  2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    I could never

    understand the need for a seperate GPS system to the US one.

    Unless of course , you were worried about the US turning off access to the GPS if they did'nt like what you were upto.. like say.... independent military action...

    But then if a civilian GPS signal is good enough to park outside my front door , its good enough to guide a cruise missile into my house

    1. Dave Bell

      Re: I could never

      Up until 2000, the civil signal gave lower precision than the military signal. We farmers had to use differential GPS to get useful precision. The US Military could still force lower precision on anyone else. The military encryption was turned off during the First Gulf War because the soldiers wouldn't have had enough GPS receivers that could handle the encrypted signal. The people at the LAMMA show that year noticed...

      1. streaky
        Black Helicopters

        Re: I could never

        People actually still don't know that no western weapon systems rely solely on GPS. All it does is provide final accuracy. What's the value of turning off GPS and ruining your own ops on the basis of not stopping something?

        The benefit to having your own system is you can decide to point the directional signal - though I'm sure the five eyes countries could easily do a deal for negotiated access and order of precedence about who/when/where. Or just add more antennas so it never becomes an issue. Or pay for a larger constellation.

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: I could never

          And now that everyone and their mum has anti-satellite capabilities, weapons have to be built with the assumption that GPS might not be available.

          1. streaky

            Re: I could never

            Weapons have always been built with the assumption that GPS doesn't exist, that's the whole point of what I said. It's the difference between 10 meter CEP and 10cm CEP and nothing more - it's not even that if it's something like a modern cruise missile that actually understands what it's supposed to be hitting looks like.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: I could never

      Unless of course , you were worried about the US turning off access to the GPS if they did'nt like what you were upto.. like say.... independent military action...

      Or perhaps refusing to sell an island or two which the US happens to fancy at the moment? Or may be being a host to a telecom company which is getting a bit too succesful? Or something like refusing to hold a ship which didn't break any of your laws, but is owned by a country the US does not like? Or being a little too efficient at making aluminium and steel?

      A capricious and arbitrary external power, which is not accontable to any outsider in any meanigful way, is not a very good sole provider for a safety-critical system or resource. Which at this point GNSS arguably is.

      1. MyffyW Silver badge

        If I recall...

        In 1982 the US tried to restrict UK access to American fuelling facilities on Ascension Island, until it was pointed out they were on British sovereign territory.

        1. Beachrider

          Re: If I recall...

          Nothing to do with GPS, but since you mentioned it. The USAF built the strip in 1942, under agreement with UK. USAF did landing strip improvements in 1980 (for Space Shuttle). No facilities for RAF existed before "provisioning" in 1982. The USAF was concerned about the integrity of the airstrip and refueling for such heavy wear. That was the only 'pushback', but it was real.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: If I recall...

            "such heavy wear."

            As an emergency shuttle landing strip, I'm surprised they were worried a few Vulcans might wear it out so easily.

            1. Marco van Beek

              Re: If I recall...

              Pretty sure I read in one of the many Vulcan books that the deal to allow the RAF to use the runway was for “peaceful” missions only and the USAF turned a blind eye to the three (I think it was three) bombers hiding in plain view amongst the 22 or so Victor tankers.

              Interesting side fact: Much was made of the bombing raids being the longest ever at the time, but back in 1945 the SOE in SE Asia used stripped out Liberator bombers doing 24 hour round trips, no refuelling, no GPS, no radio beacons, to drop agents and RAPWI teams in Enemy held territory.

            2. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

              Re: If I recall...

              "As an emergency shuttle landing strip, I'm surprised they were worried a few Vulcans might wear it out so easily."

              A shuttle only needs to make an emergency unpowered landing once, and never needs to take off if it leaves by ship. Multiple Vulcans making multiple powered landings and takeoffs would certainly cause more wear.

          2. Beachrider

            Re: If I recall...

            Hmmmm, some may not appreciate the breadth and depth of US support at Ascension. The sidewinder missiles were put on scores of Harriers and were KEY to the protection of tankers and bombers. 250 plane-take-offs and landings in 10 days. This did more damage at Ascension than at Stanley airport. Both were repaired quickly, though. Falklands was won by ships, but the RAF parried the threat from mainland-based Argentinian air assets.

        2. gimme shelter

          Re: If I recall...

          Appears to be untrue, according to this document.

          The Logistics of the British Recovery of the Falkland Islands 1982

          "The United States’ level of co-operation went far beyond allowing the British use of the runway at Wideawake, including by granting them almost complete access to the airfield’s 1,200,000 US gallons of aviation fuel stocks, and later by agreeing to the British storing their own fuel stocks in the facilities at Wideawake."

          Still, nice story.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


  4. EnviableOne Silver badge

    Its ok, the US will be using GLONASS before long

    so we can just buy GPS from them ....

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My £91 million bid

    My company, 'Statingtheblobvious Plc' which was fully incorporated in the US free state of Greenlandia at least 2 days ago, and has no connection whatsoever to 'DeliveringcheapPizzas Plc' apart from our websites both being developed by my nephew as a GCSE woodwork project, is prepared to carry out the Brexit Satellite feasibility project for £91 million, thus saving the government a 1/30th of a Grayling quid.

    Our bid is comprehensive, involving as it does the appointment of several leading advisers on generous salaries (might suit retired civil servant or politician). We will also ensure ample stakeholder engagement through dinners at key high profile networking events (venues to include Wimbledon, Twickenham, Wembley and Monaco) and at the governing parties' annual conference. Obviously we will be taking key government stakeholders to look at potential launch facilities - in Florida and on various Caribbean and Pacific Islands. Finally we have already written the final report so are well ahead of the game:

    'An independent satellite positioning system for the UK is vital to our global outward looking trade ethos. It will support the high tech industry of (add Defence Minister's constituency here . Ed) and offers multiple opportunities for international collaboration. We have already signed up Ruritania as a full partner (subject to us doing all the design and manufacture in their highly competitive sweatshops). All that is required is for you to post us a cheque for £1Billion for the next stage feasibility study to PO Box 1234 New Nuuk, USA'.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: My £91 million bid

      "apart from our websites both being developed by my nephew as a GCSE woodwork project,"

      Nurse! New keyboard please!

  6. simonlb Silver badge

    'The eye-watering potential £5bn price tag'

    Well going off what Boris Johnson promised during the referendum, that's less than 15 weeks worth of the weekly £350M NHS money we would have had. Just sayin'.

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