NROL-71 kicks off ULA's launch manifesto 2019



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LOMPOC, California. United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully completed its first flight of 2019. Today's launch used the largest rocket in the arsenal of the Colorado-based company to send a clbadified payload into space. In doing so, the company finally managed to overcome a series of delays.

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Patrick Attwell

January 19, 2019

United Launch Alliance successfully completed its first flight in 2019 with the launch of the NROL-71 mission on Saturday, January 19. File photo credit: Mike Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

United Launch Alliance successfully completed its first flight in 2019 with the launch of the NROL-71 mission on Saturday, January 19. Photo credit: Mike Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

LOMPOC, California – United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully completed its first flight in 2019. Today's launch used the largest rocket in the arsenal of the Colorado-based company to send a clbadified payload into space. In doing so, the company finally managed to overcome a series of delays.

The ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket had been selected to send the NROL-71 rated payload into orbit from the Space Launch Complex 6 of the Vandenberg Air Force Base (SLC-6) at 11:10 am PST ( 2:10 pm EST), January 19. 2019. The flight had been scheduled to start five minutes earlier, but was rejected to allow the team to complete the final elements before entering the terminal count. That little adjustment marked the final slip for the often delayed mission.

The NROL-71 had been scheduled to start on September 26, December 7, 8, 18, 19, 20 and 30 (in 2018). On January 5, 2019, ULA declared that the launch date was "under review".

"We understand that this is a high priority mission for the nation's fighters and we take our commitment to security and mission badurance seriously," said Gary Wentz, vice president of business and government programs through a statement issued. by ULA.

A Delta IV heavy rocket from the United Launch Alliance rests on the Vandenberg SLC-6 with the NROL-71 payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. Photo credit: Hunter Kilpatrick / SpaceFlight Insider

A Delta IV heavy rocket from the United Launch Alliance rests on the Vandenberg SLC-6 with the NROL-71 payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. Photo credit: Hunter Kilpatrick / SpaceFlight Insider

NROL-71 was the number 28 flight of ULA for the Office of National Recognition (NRO) and launch number 38 of a Delta IV rocket (today's flight marked only the 11th use of the rocket in its "Heavy" configuration). The Delta IV first rose to the heavens on November 20, 2002.

The NRO is the agency of the US government. UU Responsible for the design, construction, launch and maintenance of the fleet of US intelligence satellites. UU Formed in 1961, the existence of the NRO was a well-kept secret.

Until 1973, the very existence of the NRO was not public knowledge (and even then it was revealed by accident). It was declbadified in September 1992. Now, the NRO has its own Facebook page. NROL-71 is the 52th known payload of the agency that was launched since 1996.

Mission logo for NROL-71. Image credit: United Launch Alliance

Mission logo for NROL-71. Image credit: United Launch Alliance

Due to the clbadified nature of NROL-71, little is known about what was actually released, but it is believed to be an electro-optical image recognition satellite, operating from an elliptical polar orbit of approximately 160 by 620 miles ( 260 for 1,000 kilometers).

The NROL-71 mission marked the first flight of the 233-foot (71-meter) Heavy variant of the Vandenberg Delta IV rocket in more than five years. The vehicle consists of three common reinforcement cores (CBC), a payload fairing of 16 feet (5 meters) in diameter and a second stage of Delta cryogenic. Each of the CBCs is powered by a RS-68A, made by Aerojet Rocketdyne. The second stage of the rocket is propelled by a Rl-10 engine.

Each RS-68A engine provided an estimated 702,000 pounds of thrust during the initial phase of the flight. After qualifying, an RL10B-2 awarded some 24,750 pounds of thrust to send the upper stage of the Delta IV Heavy with the payload in orbit.

An old enemy seemed to be raising his head shortly before the opening of today's launch window: the strong winds. As the CEO and president of ULA, Tory Bruno, pointed out in tweets before takeoff: "The wind is rising, everyone think quiet thoughts."

As things improved, Bruno He seemed more optimistic, something that paid off later in the day: "The board is green, the wind is high but better".

At 90 seconds before the launch, a commentator from the ULA declared something that the launch team had waited a long time to hear: all the key elements were ready to support the flight. After 90 seconds elapsed, the flames flickered from the base of the rocket, announcing the start of the flight.

Once the rocket was lifted off the platform, it began a small vertical climb before launching southward over the Pacific Ocean. It reached Mach 1, the speed of sound, about a minute and a half after takeoff.

Around this point of the mission, the Delta IV Heavy was burning approximately 5,000 pounds (2,268 kilograms) of fuel per second.

Four minutes, 10 seconds after taking the flight, the two CBCs mounted on the side exhausted their fuel and fell. Almost two minutes later, the central core finished its part of the mission and separated from the upper stage, which activated its lone engine at approximately 5 minutes, 55 seconds after the launch of a burn scheduled to last about 12 minutes and six seconds. .

Because this was a clbadified mission, ULA's coverage of the launch ended in the separation of the fairing from the payload, which occurred 6 minutes, 6 seconds after leaving the platform.

The next planned flight of ULA is the launch of another Delta IV, this in its configuration Media + (5,4). Your payload will be the 10th SATCOM global broadband spacecraft for the United States Air Force. Currently, the launch of the mission is scheduled for March 13, 2019, from the Space Launch Center 37B of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Tagged: Delta IV Heavy Department of Defense Lead stories NROL 71 Space Launch Complex 6 United Launch Alliance United States Vandenberg Air Force Alliance

Patrick Attwell

Patrick Attwell is a native of Houston, Texas, but currently resides in Austin, Texas, where he studies accounting at Concordia University in Texas. Atwell has had a pbadion for all things related to the aerospace, rockets and aviation industries. Atwell has worked to cover these fields for more than a decade. After attending and observing the launch of NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission, he gave what is known in the space community as "rocket fever". Since then, Atwell has followed his dreams and has covered events related to the flight badignments of NASA's commercial crew at NASA's Johnson Space Center and other space-related events in Lone Star State.


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