United Launch Alliance (ULA) has launched the NROL-71 payload on its Delta IV Heavy rocket on behalf of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).
The NROL-71 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex-6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, US. It is designed to support the country’s national defence and comprises three common booster cores.
Each of the booster cores is powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne (AR) RS-68A liquid hydrogen / liquid oxygen engine producing a combined thrust of more than 2.1 million pounds.
Meanwhile, an AR RL10B-2 liquid hydrogen / liquid oxygen engine was used to power the second stage.
ULA government and commercial programmes vice-president Gary Wentz said: “Congratulations to our team and mission partners for successfully delivering this critical asset to support national security missions. Thank you to the entire team for their perseverance, ongoing dedication and focus on 100% mission success.”
The Delta IV Heavy is a heavy lift launch vehicle that is deployed for high-priority missions of the National Reconnaissance Office, the US Air Force and Nasa.
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The vehicle’s advanced upper stage allows it to send more than 14,000lb directly to geosynchronous orbit, as well as other complex interplanetary trajectories.
NROL-71 represents ULA’s first launch this year. Established in December 2006, the company has so far launched 132 missions that serve different purposes, including earth observation capabilities, global communications, and solar system studies.
The company is set to launch the WGS-10 mission for the USAF on a Delta IV rocket from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, US, in March.