ULA Atlas V rocket launches NROL-101 mission

16 November 2020 (Last Updated November 17th, 2020 11:06)

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) has announced the launch of a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellite to orbit on board its Atlas V rocket.

ULA Atlas V rocket launches NROL-101 mission
A ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the NROL-101 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office lifts off. Credit: United Launch Alliance.

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) has announced the launch of a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellite to orbit on board its Atlas V rocket.

The NROL-101 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

It also marks the debut of the Northrop Grumman Graphite Epoxy Motors (GEM) 63 solid rocket boosters.

The boosters burn solid propellant and boost the rocket’s first stage lifting capacity.

Each of the GEM 63 produced 371,550lb of maximum thrust to supplement the 860,200lb of thrust, which is produced by the RD-180 main engine in order to launch the rocket.

The combined thrust at lift-off was around 1.8 million pounds or eight million mega-Newtons.

An Atlas V 531 was used for the mission, which featured 17ft payload fairing.

ULA Government and Commercial Programs vice-president Gary Wentz said: “Thank you to our mission partners, the NRO and the United States Space Force for their continued confidence and partnership with ULA.

“This launch was the inaugural launch of our new GEM 63 solid rocket motors, an instrumental step for ULA to build flight experience in preparation for the Vulcan Centaur, our next-generation launch vehicle.”

The launch on 13 November was the 86th Atlas V rocket launch and the 71st Atlas V rocket to be launched from Space Launch Complex-41.

In August, ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket was set to launch the NROL-44 mission for the NRO.

Last month, ULA tweeted that it will soon confirm a launch dated for NROL-44 mission.