Photography Magazine

Boeing Delta III Second Stage

By Htam
Boeing Delta III Second Stage

@ Santa Ana, CA

September 2022

While in SoCal for a trip, I was driving on I-5 when I spied what looked like a rocket alongside the freeway. Investigated the following day and found this outdoor exhibit at the Discovery Cube science museum. This hardware stands as a tribute to the engineers in Orange County that spearheaded America’s space program. First launched in 1998, the Delta III rocket was an expendable commercial launch vehicle developed by Boeing. Despite having double the payload capacity of the reliable Delta II, all three Delta III launches were failures and the project was ended in favor of the Delta II and IV.

This stage was powered by a Pratt & Whitney RL10B-2 engine generating almost 25,000 lbs of thrust. Developed and manufactured partly by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, this second stage design burned liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen (tan colored tank), offering significantly better performance than the Delta II’s second stage, which burned hypergolic propellants. After Delta III’s retirement, this design was modified for use as the Delta IV’s second stage.

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