Delta Mariner docks at Vandenberg

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

A cargo ship, contracted by United Launch Alliance and specifically designed to carry rocket components, recently dropped anchor here, April 6.

The Delta Mariner made its way from a production facility in Decatur, Ala., to deliver a Delta IV rocket, scheduled to launch sometime this year.

“The Delta Mariner is the only transport method to get the Delta IV rocket here from Decatur,” said 1st Lt. Luke Unrath, 4th Space Launch Squadron launch vehicle responsible engineer. “Because of this, the shipping schedule is planned far in advance to ensure delivery well before the rocket is put on-stand.”

Anchoring at Vandenberg’s sole dock, which is specifically designed to accept the Delta Mariner, the boat is a required form of transportation due to the booster’s massive size. Additionally, the delivery will help Vandenberg achieve one of its primary objectives – maintaining assured access to space.

“U.S. Code 2273 policy of the U.S. President states, to the maximum extent practicable, the U.S. has the capabilities necessary to launch and insert national security payloads into space whenever such payloads are needed in space,” said 1st Lt. Jessica Dixon Galbreath, 4th SLS Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle launch mission manager. “This is also known as assured access to space. The arrival of the Delta Mariner and offload of the Delta IV hardware helped achieve the assured access to space required by the U.S. President.”

In a carefully orchestrated manner, civilian and military members alike will continue to work tirelessly -- from the time rocket components arrive piece by piece to the moment the payload successfully reaches polar-orbit,

“The 4th SLS provides mission assurance for the Air Force throughout the entire process,” said Unrath. “From delivery to Vandenberg, through the stacking process, to the day of launch, the 4th is the lynchpin between United Launch Alliance and the Space and Missile Center. Risk mitigation is another critical role we play throughout the entire process.”

Despite logistical challenges like uncooperative weather, members of the 4th SLS, and their civilian partners, worked cohesively to ensure the offload was a success.

“We worked with ULA, Foss Maritime and the NRO, to ensure a successful offload,” said Dixon Galbreath. “The land based weather and maritime weather were challenges which delayed the original offload date, but we set-up daily meetings with our partners to discuss the feasibility of offloading the next chance we had – and it ended up being a success! ULA, Foss Maritime and the 4th SLS did a fantastic job working together to make it all happen.”