The FINANCIAL — A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket is in final preparations to launch the NROL-101 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The launch is on track for Nov. 3 from Space Launch Complex-41 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Launch is planned for 5:58 p.m. EST.
“ULA is proud to play a pivotal role in support of our mission partners and national security by keeping our country safe one launch at a time,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. “We thank our mission partners for their continued trust and teamwork. The NROL-101 mission will be ULA’s 29th mission launched for the National Reconnaissance Office and the 17th NRO mission launched on an Atlas V.”
The mission will launch on an Atlas V 531, a rocket that delivers unique capacity and the performance required for a range of mission types. The 531 configuration launched the first three Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites for the United States Space Force and will loft a pair of C-band satellites for SES in 2022.
The NROL-101 mission will be the first ULA launch flying the new Northrop Grumman Graphite Epoxy Motors (GEM) 63 solid rocket boosters that burn solid propellant and augment the lifting capacity of rocket’s first stage. The GEM 63s measure 63 in. (1.6 meters) in diameter and 66 ft. (20.11 meters) in length. They will be ignited at the launch pad and burn for 94 seconds, each consuming 97,500 pounds (44,225.2 kg) of propellant to produce 371,550 pounds (1.6 mega-Newtons) of max thrust to augment the 860,200 pounds (3.83 mega-Newtons) of thrust produced by the RD-180 main engine to power the Atlas V rocket skyward. At liftoff, the combined thrust will be nearly 1.8 million pounds or 8 million mega-Newtons.
The Atlas V 531 configuration includes a 17 ft. (5 meter) payload fairing and stands 206 ft. (63 meters) tall. The Atlas booster for this mission is powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine. Aerojet Rocketdyne provided the RL10C-1 engine for the Centaur upper stage.
This will be the 86th launch of the Atlas V rocket and the 71st Atlas V to launch from Space Launch Complex-41 in Florida. To date ULA has launched 140 times with 100 percent mission success.