Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
Research | By Jody Lindsey

US Spy Satellite Heads for Orbit to Replenish Fleet

US Spy Satellite Heads for Orbit to Replenish Fleet

The NROL-47 spacecraft soared into Earth orbit today (Jan. 12), riding atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Medium rocket that lifted off from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base at 5:11 p.m. EST (2211 GMT, 2:11 p.m. local California time).

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket with a National Reconnaissance Office payload was originally set to launch Wednesday but was then rescheduled for Thursday, when it was delayed multiple times and ultimately scrubbed due to a ground system valve problem.

Due to the mission's classified nature, little is known about the NROL-47 payload, but it is believed to be radar reconnaissance satellite, operating from a retrograde orbit inclined 123 degrees.

However, we can make a few inferences. Orbital ATK produced the solid rocket motors at its facilities in Magna and Clearfield, Utah, where it has manufactured GEM-60s for the Delta IV launch vehicle since the initial flight in 2002.

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The launch was delayed twice earlier this week. The NRO publicized the launch with generic tweets, saying the mission was the first of two planned by the agency this year.

Yesterday, weather and other technical issues forced a delay. "We are proud to provide this national defense capability, and every Team V member involved has tirelessly worked to ensure the launch is safe and successful". ULA, a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, also builds Atlas 5 rockets, which flew six times previous year.

Col. Greg Wood, the 30th Space Wing vice commander, will serve as the space launch commander. As a young Star Trek fan he participated in the letter-writing campaign which resulted in the space shuttle prototype being named Enterprise.

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