On Thursday morning, United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Medium rocket took flight for the final time. Beneath clear blue skies at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch site in Florida, the rocket carried the GPS III satellite safely into orbit. This is the second of the Air Force's next-generation global positioning system satellites to reach space.

As usual, the single-core Delta IV rocket performed its job well. Since 2002, this rocket (which can fly with or without small, side-mounted solid rocket boosters) has flown 29 missions. All have been successful.

But the venerable Delta rocket will fly no more. Put simply, in today's marketplace—in which United Launch Alliance must compete with SpaceX for national security launches and with many other providers for commercial missions—the Delta-IV Medium cannot compete.

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