A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-3 on Dec. 12 at 7:19 p.m. PST. Designated NROL-35, the mission is in support of national defense.
"We are honored to deliver the NROL-35 spacecraft to orbit together with our customers, the NRO Office of Space Launch and the Air Force," said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Atlas and Delta Programs. "This mission was launched on the most powerful Atlas ever launched from California with more than 2 million pounds of liftoff thrust. This was enabled by the addition of the four solid rocket motors, providing additional performance as required to meet our customer's needs."
This mission was launched aboard an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) 541 configuration vehicle, which includes a 5-meter diameter payload fairing along with four Aerojet Rocketdyne solid rocket motors attached to the Atlas booster. The Atlas booster for this mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine and the Centaur upper stage was powered by the inaugural flight of the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C-1 engine.
"ULA is extremely pleased with this first flight of the new, RL10C-1 engine," said Sponnick. "We have been working closely with Aerojet Rocketdyne and our Air Force customers for several years to develop and extensively test this next-generation engine to enable the most reliable and cost-effective upper stage propulsion for our Atlas and Delta programs."
ULA's next launch is the Atlas V Mobile User Objective System (MUOS-3) satellite for the United States Navy scheduled for Jan. 20, 2015 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.