Final Complex 17 launch sends Delta 2 & GRAIL to the moon!
9/10/11 ~ 9:08:52am

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For the final time from historic Complex 17, the oldest active pad at Cape Canaveral, a Delta 2 rocket, the last one to launch from Florida, sends NASA's twin GRAIL spacecraft on a mission to orbit the moon. The rocket flew in the Heavy configuration with slightly larger solid rocket boosters than a normal Delta 2, for the sixth time. Once arriving on New Years Eve, 2011, after a long low-energy spiral outward from Earth, the GRAIL probes will spend three months studying the moon's gravity, thermal properties and the makeup of its interior.
It was the final launch from Complex 17, which saw is first launch in January 1957 with the Thor IRBM, the predecessor to Delta. Then in 1960, on the first Delta mission, Echo 1, the world's first communications satellite, was launched. And in the six decades since, countless scientific probes such as Mars Pathfinder, Spirit & Opportunity, Phoenix, Genesis, Stardust and many more, plus dozens of GPS satellites and others, all launched from these twin launch pads, A & B.

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MST rollback time-lapse**      Delta 2 on Pad 17B

Astronomy Picture of the Day!

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A helicopter serves as a close size perspective for the 13-story Delta 2 rocket as it stands atop Pad 17B, fully fueled, ready to launch NASA's GRAIL probes to the moon: