The first-flight Boeing Delta IV rocket is one step closer to launch. "A sense of excitement continues to build," says Dave Herst, director of Delta IV launch sites. "With the arrival of the Boeing Delta IV first stage, we're now only months away from when all our hard work pays off." The first stage, also called the common booster core, made its way via the M/V Delta Mariner from Decatur, Ala., to the Boeing Horizontal Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 37, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

The Delta team will begin processing the rocket for flight, which includes putting it through a hot-fire test on the launch pad prior to first launch.

The Delta IV first stage stretches 156-ft long and has a diameter as large as a Boeing widebody jet.

Four Delta launches are currently scheduled for 2002 and five for 2003.