The Air Force on Jan. 17 successfully launched a classified intelligence satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office onboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV heavy rocket fired from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. This mission, which took place from the cape’s space launch complex 37, was the third Delta IV heavy launch overall, but the first in support of NRO, ULA said in a release. Last September, Gary Payton, USAF’s point man for space, said the Air Force would not launch a Delta rocket until it was sure that components for the booster had been adequately tested for their ability to withstand the rigors of launch. Payton said the decision came after it was determined that a contractor’s test equipment had not been properly calibrated for vibration testing of some Delta booster parts.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.