ULA launches US National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite

14 December 2020 (Last Updated January 27th, 2021 09:24)

Spacecraft launch service United Launch Alliance (ULA) has launched a satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), a US Government agency tasked to manage spy satellites.

ULA launches US National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite
A ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the NROL-44 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office lifts off from Space Launch Complex-37. Credit: United Launch Alliance.

Spacecraft launch service United Launch Alliance (ULA) has launched a satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), a US Government agency tasked to manage spy satellites.

Carrying the NROL-44 mission, the ULA’s Delta IV Heavy rocket was launched from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

The mission achieved success following a series of delays due to infrastructure and hardware issues.

Further details about the classified payload were not disclosed.

ULA Government and Commercial Programs vice-president Gary Wentz said: “I want to thank our mission partners for their collaboration and teamwork as we worked through technical challenges that culminated in the launch of this critical national security payload.

“The Delta IV Heavy again demonstrated its success as the nation’s proven heavy lift vehicle, through its unique capability to deliver this mission to orbit due to a combination of performance and fairing size.”

The Delta IV Heavy rocket is used for delivering high-priority missions for the US Space Force, NRO and Nasa.

It features three common core boosters each powered by Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engines to generate more than 2.1Mlb of thrust.

According to ULA, the mission represented the 41st launch of the Delta IV rocket, the 12th in the Heavy configuration and the company’s 30th launch with the NRO.

The next mission for the company is the STP-3 mission for the US Space Force, scheduled in the first quarter of next year.

Last month, ULA launched another National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellite to orbit on board its Atlas V rocket.