Wednesday, February 10, 2016

ULA Successfully Launches NROL-45 Payload for the National Reconnaissance Office

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Medium+ (5,2) rocket successfully delivered a satellite, designated NROL-45, to orbit for the National Reconnaissance Office after lifting off at 3:40 a.m. PST Feb. 10, 2016 from Space Launch Complex-6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, located on California's Central Coast. (Courtesy photo: ULA)

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-6 at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, on Feb. 10 at 3:40 a.m. PST. Designated NROL-45, the mission is in support of national defense. This is ULA’s second launch in 2016 and the 105th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

“Congratulations to the ULA team and our U.S. Air Force and NRO partners on the launch of NROL-45,” said Laura Maginnis, ULA vice president of Custom Services. “This is our second successful launch within five days for our U.S. government customer, a testament to our outstanding teamwork and focus on 100 percent mission success, one launch at a time. ULA is proud to be entrusted with safely and reliably delivering our nation’s most critical space assets to orbit.”

This mission was launched aboard a Delta IV Medium+ (5,2) configuration Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) using a single ULA common booster core powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A main engine along with two Orbital ATK GEM-60 solid rocket motors. The upper stage was powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10B-2 engine with the satellite encapsulated in a 5-meter-diameter composite payload fairing.

"A successful launch, like the one today, can only happen with the help of an extremely talented and dedicated team. Congratulations to everyone involved. Simply put, it couldn't have happened without you," said Peter Cova, acting vice president of Space Launch Systems at Aerojet Rocketdyne. "Aerojet Rocketdyne looks forward to working with our ULA and U.S. government customers on future launches and placing these highly critical payloads into orbit."

After the upper-stage separated from the launch vehicle, a single RL10B-2 engine ignited to provide 24,750 pounds of thrust to power the upper-stage, using cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants during its operation. ARDÉ, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne based in New Jersey, provides the pressure vessels on the first and second stages of the launch vehicle.

"This is another bright indication of the great work performed by all here at the Space and Missile Systems Center. Congratulations to all of us on the second successful space launch this calendar year!" said Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) and Air Force program executive officer for space.

The mission's emblem on the payload fairing featured the silhouette of a military working dog sitting beside two soldiers kneeling at a memorial to a fallen comrade and the line, "For those who have given all, we remember."

Wednesday's pre-dawn launch was the first for the Delta IV since its successful deployment of a Wideband Global Satcom spacecraft last July, a program managed by SMC. It also marked the 31st flight of the Delta IV launch vehicle and the rocket's sixth mission from Vandenberg under the direction of the 4th Space Launch Squadron and 30th Space Wing. Col. J. Christopher Moss, 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority.

ULA's next launch is the Atlas V OA-6 Cygnus International Space Station resupply mission, flown for Orbital ATK under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract. The launch is targeted for March 22 from Space Launch Complex-41 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The EELV program was established by the U.S. Air Force to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads. The commercially developed EELV program supports the full range of government mission requirements, while delivering on schedule and providing significant cost savings over the heritage launch systems.

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