United Launch Alliance (ULA) is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin Space and Boeing Defense, Space & Security, was formed in December 2006.
United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched the NROL-44 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) abroad its Delta IV Heavy rocket.
The rocket lifted off with the classified spy satellite payload from Space Launch Complex-37 of Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS) on Dec. 10 at 8:09 p.m. EST. The NROL-44 payload is thought to belong to the Orion (Mentor or Advanced Orion) class of spy satellites that collect signals intelligence (SIGINT) from space.
“We are honored to launch the first payload from the newly renamed Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. 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,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. 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 used for the launch was comprised of three common core boosters each powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine producing a combined total of more than 2.1 million pounds of thrust. The second stage was powered by an AR RL10B-2 liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine.
This was the 41st launch of the Delta IV rocket, the 12th in the Heavy configuration and ULA’s 30th launch with the NRO.
To date ULA has launched 142 times with 100 percent mission success. ULA’s next launch is the STP-3 mission for the U.S. Space Force aboard an Atlas V 551 rocket, scheduled for first quarter 2021 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida.
The STP-3 mission consists of a primary space vehicle (STPSat-6) and an integrated propulsive EELV Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) holding up to six payloads (IP-ESPA). The STPSat-6 space vehicle will host the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), Space and Atmospheric Burst Reporting System-3 (SABRS-3) payload, and the NASA Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) payload. Additionally, seven science and technology (S&T) payloads are manifested by the Department of Defense Space Test Program on STPSat-6.