Space

NROL-101 satellite deployed by Atlas V rocket to its orbit

Summary

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) has deployed the Atlas V rocket after a sequence of launch delays characterized by technical problems and lousy weather. The 63 meters long satellite left Space Launch Complex 41 of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, […]

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) has deployed the Atlas V rocket after a sequence of launch delays characterized by technical problems and lousy weather. The 63 meters long satellite left Space Launch Complex 41 of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, hosting a National Reconnaissance Office satellite whose mission is espionage. This NROL-101 mission is ULA’s fifth in 2020, with the company having deployed other cargoes for the Perseverance Mars rover and the military. However, the National Reconnaissance Office was adamant about divulging details concerning the payload because it is a prerequisite.

Initially, the rocket hosting this payload was supposed to leave the launch site on November 3rd after the technical team noticed a problem with the vehicle’s control system. The technical team decided to substitute the control system with a better one that has air lockets. An attempted relaunch revealed a technical glitch with the fuel system that disconnected the cord supplying the oxygen heading to the propellants. The engineers called of the mission until a later date when the changes would be comprehensive. 

After this series of unfortunate events, the closing pitch for these problems was lousy weather courtesy of the Tropical storm that bewildered the hurricane. Nevertheless, the weather normalized on Friday, allowing the team to prepare for a launch. Meteorologists projected that there would be a high chance of rain due to the visible clouds. The National Reconnaissance Office utilizes these satellites to collect crucial intelligence and transfer them via uninterruptible connections to the required units or agencies. Therefore, the NRO was inclined not to give more details about this launch other than confirming that they had deployed the satellite.

ULA is also preparing to deploy another governmental payload via the Delta IV Heavy. This rocket will take off with the NROL-44 satellite before the end of this year. The mission is still under scrutiny to ensure that the hardware of the rocket and the payload are in shape before they can leave for space. This fifth Atlas V rocket mission was the first one utilizing the advanced rocket motors. The previous missions hosted communication satellites for the military unit, but this one is deploying a spy satellite.

The agency emphasized that the boosters are a product of Northrop Grumman, which dubbed them Gem 63 instead of the last name, Aerojet Rocketdyne. The company explained that these boosters are flexible for usage and more affordable compared to the previous models. In conclusion, this mission was expected to double with SpaceX’s mission to the International Space Station. However, SpaceX stated that its mission would be coming on this weekend to send astronauts to space.

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