Gen. William Shelton, head of Air Force Space Command, has ordered an accident investigation board to determine why a Delta IV RL-10B-2 upper-stage engine failed to perform as expected during the Oct. 4 launch of a GPS IIF navigation satellite. Despite the anomaly, the Delta IV did deliver the GPS satellite “into its proper orbit,” states the command’s Oct. 11 release. However, “while the launch was ultimately successful, the time-honored rigor and earnest process of an AIB will serve us well as we attempt to determine the root cause of this anomaly,” said Shelton. He added, “In the end, our objective is continued safe and reliable launch for our nation.” The Air Force’s launch-manifest schedule is currently under review while the root cause is determined, states the release.
Boeing’s receipt of the 10th lot contract award for the KC-46 Pegasus this week leaves just three lots left to complete the Air Force’s buy of the tanker, although a further buy of 75 additional aircraft as a “bridge” to the Next-Generation Aerial-refueling System (NGAS) seems increasingly likely.