ULA Successfully Launches NROL-47 Mission

14 January, 2018, 00:32 | Author: Rolando Keller
  • The United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket blasts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Friday afternoon

The rocket, which sailed through a mostly clear sky over the Lompoc Valley, carried with it a secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

While details about the payload are classified, groups of amateur satellite trackers can use clues to narrow down the nature of the satellite, including its likely orbit and technology.

A Delta IV rocket is scheduled for launch Thursday afternoon from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast. NROL-47 will join the Future Imagery Architecture (FIA) satellite constellation, which flies under the code name Topaz.

"As the nation's most trustworthy launch provider, today's launch exemplifies ULA's ongoing commitment to 100 percent mission success", said Will Crawford, ULA's NRO program manager.

The office is in charge of designing, building, launching and maintaining US intelligence satellites. The main engine of the Delta IV is the RS-68A, manufactured by Aerojet Rocketdyne.

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Friday afternoon
The United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Friday afternoon

As usual with classified payloads, no details about the NROL-47 satellite were released.

It marked the 27th NRO launch by United Launch Alliance, which is a Colorado-based aerospace partnership between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Orbital ATK's contributions to the Delta IV include cutting-edge technologies from across the company, including two Graphite Epoxy Motors (GEM 60), large composite structures and the propellant tank and nozzle for the main engine.

Thursday's delays were due to an issue with a ground system valve, according to ULA, which had also earlier reported issues with swing arms, which connect parts of the rocket to the launchpad and typically move away from the vehicle between ignition and liftoff.

Colonel Greg Wood, 30th Space Wing vice commander, said: "We are ready and eager to take on this Delta launch".

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