SpaceX isn’t the only company that employs a fleet of ships to help with launching their rockets to space. United Launch Alliance also has a ship built to transport its rockets from their facilities along the Mississippi River to the company’s launch sites on the east and west coasts.
The ship properly named Rocketship is a pretty special ship. Built to be able to sail in both rivers and the open oceans, it takes parts of ULA’s rockets to where they need to be. Rocketship has carried ULA’s Delta II, Delta IV, and Atlas V rocket components for their flights as well as carrying the first pathfinding pieces for ULA’s newest rocket Vulcan.
With ULA’s lower launch cadence, we don’t get to see Rocketship a lot but it was spotted leaving the Mississippi yesterday afternoon. Its destination is stated to be Port Canaveral which is where ULA drops off its rockets to be moved onto Cape Canaveral Space Force Station prior to their flights.
Rocketship is planning to arrive at Port Canaveral late Wednesday afternoon carrying an unknown payload. Normally ULA sends their rockets to their launch pads months and sometimes a year in advance of their launch date. The announcement of what is being delivered usually happens as the payload is being unloaded in Florida.
To take a guess of what could possibly be on board, most likely it will be an Atlas rocket for one of their upcoming 9 Atlas V missions this year. ULA has yet to launch this year but their first mission is planned to launch at the beginning of May.
Arrives in Port Canaveral with Atlas V Rocket
Rocketship arrived late Wednesday night into Port Canaveral and docked new the entrance on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Thursday morning ULA confirmed the contents of the ship’s cargo area to be an Atlas V rocket destined to launch a sophisticated national security satellite for the US Space Force.
The ship carried the Atlas V booster and Centaur upper stage that were manufactured at ULA’s factory in Decatur, Alabama. The rocket will launch the fifth Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (SBIRS GEO-5) missile warning satellite for the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center no earlier than May 17th of this year. The mission will use the Atlas V 421 variant which means the rocket will have a 4 m fairing, 2 AJ-60 solid rocket boosters, and a single RL-10 engine on the Centaur upper stage.
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