Part of space program travels through|[07/09/08]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 9, 2008

River watchers got a bit of a sight for the eyes this week, as a cog in the U.S. space program traveled past Vicksburg on the Mississippi.

The 310-foot Delta Mariner vessel, maintained by the The Boeing Company and on its way to Florida, was carrying two boosters for the Delta IV rocket program, Boeing spokesman Doug Shores said.

Navigable in deep or shallow drafts, the vessel was launched in 1999 at the Halter Marine Shipyard in Pascagoula.

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Alliant Techsystems, based in Iuka, built large composite structures used to assemble the family of rockets in Decatur, Ala. The rockets usually propel weather and reconnaissance satellites into outer space from launch sites at Cape Canaveral, Fla., and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The boat was designed as part of the U.S. Department of Defense-sponsored Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, geared to streamline the cost of space launches.

Shores said the boosters aboard the Delta Mariner this week were scheduled to be launched in 2009.