Delta 4-Heavy's first flight
12/21/04 ~ 4:50pm

Homepage       Launch Photos

The largest rocket built since the days of Apollo and the Saturn family, the giant, 24-story Delta 4-Heavy rocket lifts off on its maiden flight. While only a partial success - the dummy payload onboard was left 10,000 miles short of geosynchronous orbit - the launch was declared largely a success. The cause of the failure was a premature shutdown of the first-stage engines, due to 'bubbles,' or air gaps tricking fuel sensors into thinking fuel had been depleted.

On the pad

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The massive fireball is caused when excess hydrogen ignites at engine start:
A close-up of the three RS-68 engines, the most power LH2 engines ever made:
From the press site, eight miles to the south: