Spaceflight Insider

Insider Exclusive: ULA’s Tony Taliancich talks NASA’s EFT-1 and the Delta IV Heavy

SpaceFlight Insider's Jason Rhian sat down with United Launch Alliance's Tony Taliancich to find out more about the EFT-1 mission that his company will be sending aloft in December. Photo Credit: Mike Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — The biggest NASA mission of the year is about three months away from lifting off. SpaceFlight Insider conducted an exclusive interview with the company which is at the forefront of making it happen. Colorado-based United Launch Alliance’s (ULA ) Director of East Coast Launch Operations, Tony Taliancich, sat down with SpaceFlight Insider for a discussion about NASA’s Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1) mission and the ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket that will carry it out come December 2014.

The Horizontal Integration Facility or “HIF” is the current residence of the massive trio of Common Booster Cores (CBCs) that will comprise this particular Delta IV Heavy. Located at Cape Canaveral Station, the structure resembles many of the hangars and buildings located at the Cape and the adjacent Kennedy Space Center – that is until you get inside. Looming over visitors are the three CBC’s which will used to start this mission on its way out of Earth’s atmosphere – and into the black.

Taliancich came in with his trademarked broad grin and welcomed SFI to the HIF. He relayed how, while the general flight of the Delta IV Heavy with EFT-1 might appear to be the same as the seven prior launches of the massive rocket – there would be some specific differences.

“There were some unique mission integration challenges as we went through the process of preparing the Delta IV Heavy for EFT-1,” Taliancich said. “However, overall, this is the same booster that we have launched in the past.”

Video courtesy of SpaceFlight Insider with elements provided by United Launch Alliance

The Delta IV Heavy is an expendable booster, the largest of the Delta IV family of launch vehicles. First taking to the skies in 2004, the Delta IV Heavy is currently the world’s highest capability rocket. The Heavy iteration of the Delta IV, is, in many ways, three rockets in one as it is comprised of three Delta IV CBCs. Much like the space shuttle’s Solid Rocket Boosters, these are jettisoned after they have expended their fuel and have done their part in p0wering massive payloads out of Earth’s gravity well (this normally takes place at a little more than four minutes into the flight).

Each Delta IV Heavy has a mass of some 1,615,988 lbs (733,000 kilograms) at liftoff. The normal version of the booster stands some 236 feet (72 meters) tall, 16 feet (five meters) in diameter and can send payloads weighing 63,470 lbs (28,790 kg) to low-Earth orbit and 31,350 lbs (14,220 kg) to a geostationary transfer orbit.

As noted, EFT-1 will see a flight test article of NASA’s new crew-rated spacecraft, the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. ULA’s Delta IV Heavy will use its impressive capabilities to set the spacecraft on a two-orbit journey around the Earth. Orion will venture some 3,600 miles (5,794 kilometers) away from the planet. This is further than any other crew-rated spacecraft has traveled since the end of the Apollo era more than four decades ago.

Having completed these two circuits, Orion will then be directed to return home. It will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere at the blistering speed of some 20,000 miles per hour (32,187 kilometers). This maiden voyage will mark Orion’s trial-by-fire and is meant to serve as the rebirth of U.S. deep space exploration efforts. For their part, NASA program managers have stated that this mission is important to the overall effort of having Orion become the spacecraft that the space agency will use to send crews to destinations such as an asteroid and Mars.

“We’re looking forward to testing our plan, our concept in space in December,” said Mark Geyer, NASA’s Orion Program Manager. “…I wouldn’t be anywhere else when the time comes around.”

A unique angle of what was required to produce this video. Photo Credit: Mike Seeley / SpaceFlight Insider

A unique angle of what was required to produce this video. Photo Credit: Mike Seeley / SpaceFlight Insider


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Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

Reader Comments

Jason I read somewhere that the RS-68A had been upgraded to an 800,000lb thrust class engine. Was that 800,000lb thrust at sea level or vacuum rated thrust? Anyway the Delta 4H is an impressive vehicle. When the FH comes along the U.S. will be able to launch 180,000lbs into LEO with two launches and 220,000 lbs with 3 launches if you figure in the Atlas V.

Finally, do you think that this launch with the Delta 4H partly manrates this vehicle to launch the CST-100 in it’s medium configuration with 3 or 4 solid strap on boosters?

Hi Art,
Let me pass that by my ULA contacts and I’ll get you the answer as soon as I can.

I sort of got that impression. They did have to alter SLC-37 to handle this mission and I’d imagine they may have made some modifications where it could support crew.
Sincerely, Jason Rhian – Editor, SpaceFlight Insider

Per your request, here’s ULA’s response: The RS-68A has approximately 700,000 lbs of thrust at sea level.

We’ll done. Learned a lot about the mission.

I’m not aware of any attempt to Man-rate Delta. This would also require the pad being prepared for emergency escape. I don’t know if Atlas and Delta use the same pad. The pad for Atlas is being prepped for manned launches of CST-100 and hopefully Dream Chaser if they decide to continue. On another discussion site it was stated that Delta would not be appropriate for manned launches due to higher cost, vibration loads and a greater fire danger if anything goes wrong. Please correct me if any of this is incorrect.

After watching the interview with Tony Taliancich, I can’t help asking why SFI asked the question relating to why ULA was chosen to launch EFT-1 and how it felt to be picked. The truth is there is no other US launcher available capable of meeting the needs of it’s mission. Further, as the first visible step in the SLS/Orion program it is almost unthinkable that NASA would outsource the launch to a foreign provider. The question itself seems more for the benefit of ULA image building than having a true information value. I was also surprised when I realized that Delta IV Heavy has only flown 7 times. The first flight was really a mission failure because one payload went into the wrong orbit and the other failed to reach orbit. The following six flights were immediately dedicated to heavy DoD reconn birds. This surprised me more considering the totally new vehicle configuration. To immediately risk highly prized national security payloads is not the same 3 flight certification requirements that SpaceX is being asked to meet today.

Well produced piece on a highly anticipated event. Great job to all!

Great interview – thanks! Go Orion!

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