NASA is targeting a February launch for the first heavy-lift rocket powered by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen since the Apollo missions in the 1970s.
The Delta IV Heavy will lift off from Complex 40 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, carrying nine new rockets designed for deep space missions to Mars and beyond.
“We’re on schedule. The liftoff of Delta IV Heavy is progressing like expected,” Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington, said in a statement Monday.
The rocket will be scheduled to lift off from the pad Feb. 4, aiming for Mars, officials said.
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Delta IV Heavy is designed to launch missions to Mars, the moon, asteroids and other destinations billions of miles away. The two-stage rocket uses a two-stage solid-fuel booster to deliver its heavy payload and a hybrid liquid-hydrogen-liquid oxygen second stage engine for power.
The company originally proposed placing the heavy launch vehicle into service in 2016, but a contractor error delayed the plan by more than a year.
The Delta IV Heavy will use nine new N-type VLS boosters with each full mission carrying 485,900 pounds of payload for NASA, and could make more than 65 total flights over the life of the vehicles.
“The N-type VLS has been developed to modernize how we launch cargo and people in low-Earth orbit,” Jim Krackovitz, deputy director of NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program, said in a statement. “Delivering large quantities of cargo and people around the world is not possible with the Apollo 11 configuration, so using the N-type rockets was a necessity for maintaining the heaviest production rate.”
The Delta IV Heavy’s second stage will carry 2.5 million pounds of thrust at launch, making it the most powerful rocket powering NASA since Apollo, and the third most powerful engine in the world, according to the agency.
This article originally appeared on FoxNews.com. Copyright 2015