Encyclopedia Astronautica
Delta 3



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Delta 3
Credit: © Mark Wade
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Delta 3 Cutaway
Delta 3 Cutaway Drawing
Credit: Boeing
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Delta 3
Delta 3 on the pad before its first launch attempt.
Credit: Boeing
American orbital launch vehicle. Delta 3 was an attempt by the manufacturer to provide the ultimate development of the original Delta booster. The core vehicle was beefed-up to accomodate much larger solid rocket boosters and a new cryogenic upper stage. However problems were incurred during development, resulting in the first two launches being failures. Meanwhile the satellite launch market crashed and the new vehicle was left without customers. The venerable Delta 7925 soldiered on for NASA, and the new Delta 4 series captured the USAF EELV requirement.

LEO Payload: 8,292 kg (18,280 lb) to a 185 km orbit at 28.70 degrees. Payload: 3,810 kg (8,390 lb) to a GTO. Failures: 2. First Fail Date: 1998-08-27. Last Fail Date: 1999-05-05. Launch Price $: 90.000 million in 1999 dollars.

Stage Data - Delta 3

  • Stage 0. 9 x GEM 46. Gross Mass: 19,327 kg (42,608 lb). Empty Mass: 2,282 kg (5,030 lb). Thrust (vac): 628.310 kN (141,250 lbf). Isp: 278 sec. Burn time: 75 sec. Isp(sl): 273 sec. Diameter: 1.17 m (3.83 ft). Span: 1.17 m (3.83 ft). Length: 14.70 m (48.20 ft). Propellants: Solid. No Engines: 1. Engine: GEM 46. Status: In Production. Nine 1168-mm (46 in.) diameter Alliant graphite epoxy motors (GEM LDXLs) (strap-on solid rocket motors [SSRMs]) augment the first-stage performance and are a direct evolution from the GEMs currently used on Delta II. Three ground-ignited SSRMs have thrust vector control (TVC) to increase control authority. Ordnance for motor ignition and separation systems is completely redundant. Solid-motor separation is accomplished using redundantly initiated ordnance thrusters that provide the radial thrust to separate the expended solid motors from the booster.
  • Stage 1. 1 x Delta 3 - 1. Gross Mass: 104,377 kg (230,111 lb). Empty Mass: 6,822 kg (15,039 lb). Thrust (vac): 1,085.790 kN (244,095 lbf). Isp: 302 sec. Burn time: 320 sec. Isp(sl): 254 sec. Diameter: 2.44 m (8.00 ft). Span: 4.00 m (13.10 ft). Length: 20.00 m (65.00 ft). Propellants: Lox/Kerosene. No Engines: 1. Engine: RS-27A. Status: In Production. The first stage of the Delta III is powered by a Rocketdyne RS-27A main engine which has a 12:1 expansion ratio and employs a turbine/turbopump, a regeneratively cooled thrust chamber and nozzle, and a hydraulically gimbaled thrust chamber and nozzle that provides pitch and yaw control. Two Rocketdyne vernier engines provide roll control during main-engine burn, and attitude control between main-engine cutoff (MECO) and second-stage separation. High repeatability of mixture ratio ensures very accurate propellant utilization for the engines. The Rocketdyne RS-27A main and vernier engines are both unchanged from Delta II.
  • Stage 2. 1 x Delta 3 - 2. Gross Mass: 19,300 kg (42,500 lb). Empty Mass: 2,476 kg (5,458 lb). Thrust (vac): 110.030 kN (24,736 lbf). Isp: 462 sec. Burn time: 700 sec. Diameter: 2.44 m (8.00 ft). Span: 4.00 m (13.10 ft). Length: 8.80 m (28.80 ft). Propellants: Lox/LH2. No Engines: 1. Engine: RL-10B-2. Status: In Production. The upgraded cryogenic second-stage Pratt & Whitney RL10B-2 engine is based on the 30-year heritage of the reliable RL10 engine. It incorporates an extendable exit cone for increased specific impulse (Isp) and payload capability. The basic engine and turbo pump are unchanged relative to the RL10. The engine gimbal system uses electromechanical actuators that increase reliability while reducing both cost and weight. The propulsion system and attitude control system (ACS) utilize flight-proven off-the-shelf components. The second-stage propulsion system produces a thrust of 24,750 lb with a total propellant load of 37,090 lb, providing a total burn time of approxi-mately 700 sec. Missions requiring more than one restart are accommodated by adding an extra helium bottle for the additional tank repressurization. Propellants are managed during coast by directing hydrogen boiloff through aft facing thrusters to provide settling thrust. Propellant tank pressurization during burn is accomplished using hydrogen bleed from the engine for the LH2 tank and helium for the LO2 tank. After spacecraft separation, the stage is safed by dumping propellants followed by venting of the tanks.

AKA: Delta 8930; Delta III.
Status: Retired 2000.
Gross mass: 301,450 kg (664,580 lb).
Payload: 8,292 kg (18,280 lb).
Height: 35.00 m (114.00 ft).
Diameter: 2.44 m (8.00 ft).
Thrust: 4,889.50 kN (1,099,203 lbf).
Apogee: 185 km (114 mi).
First Launch: 1998.08.27.
Last Launch: 2000.08.23.
Number: 3 .

More... - Chronology...


Associated Countries
Associated Spacecraft
  • HS 601 American communications satellite bus. First launch 1990.01.09. 3-axis unified ARC 22 N and one Marquardt 490 N bipropellant thrusters, Sun and Barnes Earth sensors and two 61 Nms 2-axis gimbaled momentum bias wheels. More...

Associated Engines
  • GEM 60 Hercules solid rocket engine. 851.5 kN. In production. Isp=275s. Used as strap-on boosters for Delta 3 , Delta IV Medium. First flight 2002. More...
  • GEM 46 Hercules solid rocket engine. 608.1 kN. Air-ignited versions have nozzle ratio of 24.8:1, specific impulse of 284 sec. Isp=274s. First flight 1998. More...
  • RL-10B-2 Pratt and Whitney lox/lh2 rocket engine. 110 kN. In production. Isp=462s. Used on Delta 3 , Delta IV launch vehicles. First flight 1998. Extendable exit cone for increased specific impulse; electromechanical actuators replace hydraulic systems. More...
  • RS-27A Rocketdyne Lox/Kerosene rocket engine. 1054.2 kN. . Isp=302s. Replaced the RS-27 as the main system for the Delta and in the MA- 5A for the Atlas. RS2701B main engine, and twin LR101-NA-11 verniers. First flight 1989. More...

See also
  • Delta The Delta launch vehicle was America's longest-lived, most reliable, and lowest-cost space launch vehicle. Development began in 1955 and it continued in service in the 21st Century despite numerous candidate replacements. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • Douglas American manufacturer of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. Boeing Huntington Beach, Huntington Beach, CA, USA. More...

Associated Programs
Associated Launch Sites
  • Cape Canaveral America's largest launch center, used for all manned launches. Today only six of the 40 launch complexes built here remain in use. Located at or near Cape Canaveral are the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, used by NASA for Saturn V and Space Shuttle launches; Patrick AFB on Cape Canaveral itself, operated the US Department of Defense and handling most other launches; the commercial Spaceport Florida; the air-launched launch vehicle and missile Drop Zone off Mayport, Florida, located at 29.00 N 79.00 W, and an offshore submarine-launched ballistic missile launch area. All of these take advantage of the extensive down-range tracking facilities that once extended from the Cape, through the Caribbean, South Atlantic, and to South Africa and the Indian Ocean. More...
  • Cape Canaveral LC17B Delta launch complex. Part of a dual launch pad complex built for the Thor ballistic missile program in 1956. Upgraded over the decades for use with Thor, Delta, Delta II, and Delta III launch vehicles, it remained in use for over half a century. More...

Associated Stages
  • Delta 3 - 1 Lox/Kerosene propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 104,377/6,822 kg. Thrust 1,085.79 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 302 seconds. The first stage of the Delta III is powered by a Rocketdyne RS-27A main engine which has a 12:1 expansion ratio and employs a turbine/turbopump, a regeneratively cooled thrust chamber and nozzle, and a hydraulically gimbaled thrust chamber and nozzle that provides pitch and yaw control. More...
  • Delta 3-2 Lox/LH2 propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 19,300/2,476 kg. Thrust 110.03 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 462 seconds. The upgraded cryogenic second-stage Pratt & Whitney RL10B-2 engine is based on the 30-year heritage of the reliable RL10 engine. It incorporates an extendable exit cone for increased specific impulse (Isp) and payload capability. More...
  • GEM 46 Solid propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 19,327/2,282 kg. Thrust 628.31 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 278 seconds. Nine 1168-mm (46 in.) diameter Alliant graphite epoxy motors (GEM LDXLs) (strap-on solid rocket motors - SSRMs) augment the first-stage performance of the Delta III and were a direct evolution from the GEMs used on Delta II. More...

Delta 3 Chronology


1998 August 27 - . 01:17 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC17B. LV Family: Delta. Launch Vehicle: Delta 3. LV Configuration: Delta 8930 D259. FAILURE: Due to guidance system induced oscillation all solid motor gimbal hydraulic fluid exhausted after only 71 seconds of flight. Range safety destroyed booster 75 seconds into flight at 16 km altitude.. Failed Stage: G.
  • Galaxy 10 - . Mass: 3,876 kg (8,545 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: PanAmSat. Manufacturer: El Segundo. Program: Galaxy. Class: Communications. Type: Civilian communications satellite. Spacecraft: HS 601. COSPAR: F980827A. Built by Hughes/El Segundo for Panamsat. The satellite carried 24 C-band and 24 Ku-band transponders to provide US/Caribbean coverage, and was to have replaced the ageing SBS-5 satellite at 123 deg West. Replenishing the Galaxy/PAS constellation was a high priority for Panamsat following the loss of Galaxy 4 and problems with Galaxy 7. Galaxy 11 was not scheduled to go up until the first launch of the Sea Launch Zenit-3SL in early 1999, and this booster was in limbo due to legal problems with unauthorised transfer of technical data from Boeing to Russia. In addition there were several PAS satellites awaiting launch over the next year on Proton and Ariane vehicles.

1999 May 5 - . 01:00 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC17B. Launch Pad: SLC17B. LV Family: Delta. Launch Vehicle: Delta 3. LV Configuration: Delta 8930 D269. FAILURE: Engine failure at ignition for second burn of Centaur stage.. Failed Stage: 2.
  • Orion 3 - . Nation: USA. Agency: Palo Alto. Manufacturer: El Segundo. Program: Orion. Class: Communications. Type: Civilian communications satellite. Spacecraft: HS 601. USAF Sat Cat: 25727 . COSPAR: 1999-024A. Apogee: 2,529 km (1,571 mi). Perigee: 2,456 km (1,526 mi). Inclination: 19.8000 deg. Period: 138.60 min. The Centaur RL-10B-2 second stage engine's combustion chamber ruptured at the beginning of the second burn. The hot gases already in the chamber vented, putting the stage/spacecraft assembly into an uncontrollable tumble. The Orion 3 communications satellite ended up in a useless parking orbit of 162 km x 1378 km x 29.5 deg. It was to have served the Asia-Pacific region for Loral Orion with 33 Ku-band and 10 C-band transponders.

2000 August 23 - . 11:05 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC17B. Launch Pad: SLC17B. LV Family: Delta. Launch Vehicle: Delta 3. LV Configuration: Delta 8930 D280.
  • DM-F3 - . Payload: Dummy Payload. Mass: 4,348 kg (9,585 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: Seal Beach. Manufacturer: Douglas. Class: Technology. Type: Navigation technology satellite. Decay Date: 2009-02-04 . USAF Sat Cat: 26475 . COSPAR: 2000-048A. Apogee: 19,547 km (12,145 mi). Perigee: 212 km (131 mi). Inclination: 27.6000 deg. Vehicle Demonstration. Return to flight following earlier failure. The third Boeing Delta III launch was financed by the company and carried a dummy payload in order to bolster customer confidence in the new launch vehicle. The second stage ignited at an altitude of 158 km and the RL-10 shut off as planned in a 157 x 1363 km x 29.5 deg parking orbit. The engine fired again until fuel depletion, to place the vehicle in a geostationary transfer orbit of 190 x 20,655 km x 27.6 deg. This was much lower than that planned (23,400 km plus or minus 3,000 km) due to the fuel temperature and atmospheric conditions on the day of launch. The DM-F3 dummy payload was a mass model of the Orion 3 HS-601 satellite launched on the second Delta 3. The 4348 kg model was a 2.0m diameter, 1.7m high cylinder with two circular end plates, painted with black and white patterns. It was to be used by US Air Force researchers as a calibration target.

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