How the Delta IV Heavy Works

Delta IV rocket lifting off. See more Delta IV pictures.
© The Boeing Company Photo by Carleton Bailie

What do rockets do? Well, when we were kids, they were a great way to shoot a sibling's toys into a neighbor's yard or send your favorite action figure into "space." But there are big differences between the 2-foot-long model rockets you launched in the football field at school and the skyscraper-sized rockets that today help support the space program as well as communications, science and national security. While the general purpose is the same, mainly getting off the ground and into the skies, modern rockets are incredibly powerful and complex.

Rockets must be able to lift themselves and their cargos, which combined can weigh as much as 800 tons, and fly hundreds or even thousands of miles above the Earth. Modern rockets are in essence the ships and trucks of space, our primary means of transportation to the stars. In this article, we'll look at the newest member of Boeing's established Delta family of rockets, the Delta IV Heavy rocket, and see how it meets the challenges facing rockets today.