DENVER, May 1, 2008 -- NASA has designated the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission to fly aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II Heavy rocket. The launch will be provided under terms of a launch service agreement procured previously by NASA for this vehicle. The liftoff will occur from Space Launch Complex 17B, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., in the third quarter of 2011.
Part of NASA's Discovery Program, GRAIL will fly twin spacecraft in tandem orbits around the moon for several months to measure its gravity field in unprecedented detail. The mission will also answer longstanding questions about Earth's moon and provide scientists a better understanding of how the Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed.
"We are pleased this unique mission to study the moon will launch on a Delta II Heavy vehicle," said Michael Gass, ULA president and chief executive officer. "Delta II is an exceptional product that provides the most cost effective assured access to space for medium class payloads. Delta II has served NASA's science community superbly for decades and will continue to serve our nation for many years to come."
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., will manage the GRAIL mission, and Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver, Colo., will build the spacecraft. Scientists will use the gravity field information from the two satellites to X-ray the moon from crust to core to reveal the moon's subsurface structures and, indirectly, its thermal history.
"The Delta II's record of mission success is unprecedented as a space launch vehicle for NASA, the Air Force and commercial missions," said Rick Navarro, ULA Delta II program director. "We are committed to the medium market for the long-term and our current program transformation will continue to position the Delta II as the leader in this market."
Since 1997, the Delta II record of success is unparalleled in the industry. There are 15 launches currently manifest for the Delta II over the next four years.
ULA program management, engineering, test and mission support functions are headquartered in Denver, Colo., supported by transition employees in Huntington Beach, Calif. Manufacturing, assembly and integration operations are located at Decatur, Ala., Harlingen, Texas, San Diego, Calif., and Denver, Colo. Launch operations are located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
For more information on the ULA joint venture, visit the ULA website at http://www.ulalaunch.com, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321).