Delta IV Heavy’s West Coast work has been completed.
A powerful United Launch Alliance (ULA) rocket launched a silent US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellite from Vandenberg space force Base in California today (September 24), the last take-off from the Golden State.
The Delta 4 Heavy He boarded the flight at 6:25 p.m. EDT (2225 UTC; 3:25 p.m. local) from Space Launch Complex 6 at Vandenberg on a mission called NROL-91. Very little is known about the spacecraft that boarded NROL-91. This is no surprise. NRO builds and operates the US fleet of spy satellites, and activities and payloads tend to be classified.
that Description of the NRO . mission (Opens in a new tab) He defines NROL-91 in only vague terms, saying that it “supports the overall national security mission to provide intelligence data to senior US policymakers, the intelligence community and the Department of Defense.”
We don’t even know what orbit the satellite will occupy; This information was not provided in the NRO or ULA descriptions, and ULA ended the webcast about seven minutes after launch today at the request of the NRO.
Today’s launch was the 14th overall for the Delta IV Heavy Rocket, which debuted in 2004. The 233-foot (71 m) rocket is capable of lifting 62,540 pounds (28,370 kg) into Low Earth Orbit (LEO), more than any other missile. A launcher currently in operation except for SpaceX Falcon Heavy.
The Heavy Falcon can deliver 140,660 pounds (63,800 kg) to low Earth orbit, according to it. SpaceX specs page (Opens in a new tab).
Most of the Delta IV Heavy missions have carried NRO payloads into orbit, but NASA used the powerful booster as well. Delta 4 Heavy Vehicle Launched Space Agency Parker Solar Probe in 2018 and Orion’s first flight test in 2014.
ULA is phasing out the heavy Delta IV missile in favor of a new missile called Vulcan Centaur, which could begin by the end of 2022. Only two Delta IV Heavy flights remain, both of which are NRO missions that will launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. These missions will take place in 2023 and 2024, if all goes according to plan.
Mike Wall is the author of “Abroad (Opens in a new tab)Book (Great Grand Publishing House, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book on the search for extraterrestrials. Follow him on Twitter Tweet embed (Opens in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter Tweet embed (Opens in a new tab) or on Facebook (Opens in a new tab).
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