The skies of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California trembled from the roar of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Medium+ 5, 2 rocket. The payload for this mission is a high resolution imaging radar satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The launch site was Space launch Complex-6 (SLC-6).
The launch had been rescheduled several times due to weather and technical issues. With the technical issues resolved and weather giving a 60 percent chance of favorable launch conditions – the mission was a go.
ULA’s Delta IV launch vehicle along with two solid rocket boosters, produced by Alliant Techsystems (ATK), provided the thrust needed to get the classified payload to orbit. The rocket launched today also sported a fairing that was five meters in diameter. This was the first time that this version of the Delta IV was used.
The Delta IV family of rockets has a wide variety of variants allowing the launch vehicle to be customized to the specific payload the orbit it will be inserted into and other mission requirements.
Today’s launch marks the first of five planned national security missions scheduled to take place over the course of the four months. Four of those will be NRO flights. The fifth is the Advanced Extremely High Frequency-2 or AEHF-2 satellite. The launch of AEHF-2 will take place on a ULA Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April 30.
“Congratulations to the NRO and to all the mission partners involved in this critical national security launch,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Mission Operations. “ULA is proud to have supported this mission and delivered critical capabilities to the men and women defending our freedom throughout the world.”