United Launch Alliance (ULA) has launched NROL-52 mission onboard its Atlas V 421 rocket at 3:28 a.m. EDT today (Oct. 15) from the Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
NROL-52 is a classified mission for the United States National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).
It is suspected to belong to the fourth generation of the classified Space Data System operated by the NRO to relay data from U.S. intelligence-gathering assets in real time, including image reconnaissance data collected by the Keyhole satellites in elliptical polar orbits.
“Today’s launch is a testament to the tireless dedication of the ULA team, demonstrating why ULA continues to serve as our nation’s most dependable and successful launch provider,” said Laura Maginnis, ULA vice president of Government Satellite Launch.
“After recovering from Hurricane Irma that came through the area last month, and the last week’s weather challenges, the team found the right opportunity today to deliver this critical national asset to orbit.” “I want to thank the entire ULA team and our mission partners at the NRO and U.S. Air Force who made this, our 26th NRO launch, successful,” he added.
This mission was launched aboard an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) 421 configuration vehicle, which includes a 4-meter payload fairing (PLF) and two solid rocket boosters. The Atlas booster for this mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine, and the Centaur upper stage was powered by the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C-1 engine.
The NROL-52 mission marked ULA’s seventh launch of 2017 and 122nd overall. It is the 26th launch for the NRO by the ULA and 49th launch of NRO overall since 1996.
NROL-52 marked the 74th flight of the Atlas V rocket since its inaugural launch on Aug. 21, 2002 and the seventh in the 421 configuration.
The EELV program was established by the USAF 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 legacy launch systems.
ULA’s next launch is the Joint Polar Satellite System-1 for NASA and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. The launch is scheduled for Nov. 10 at 1:47 a.m. PST from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.