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ULA Stacks Atlas V For Next National Security Launch

United Launch Alliance (ULA) has stacked a Atlas V 551 rocket at SLC-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station ahead of their next national security launch.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Wed Aug 02 2023Written by Zac Aubert

Cape Canaveral, FL - United Launch Alliance (ULA) has stacked a Atlas V 551 rocket at SLC-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station ahead of their next national security launch. The mission, known as SILENTBARKER/NROL-107, is a collaborative effort between the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the U.S. Space Force (USSF) aimed at enhancing space domain awareness.

Preparations for the launch began on July 13 when ULA technicians initiated the stacking process of the Atlas V rocket aboard the mobile launch platform (MLP) inside the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at Cape Canaveral.

The first stage was carefully transported to the VIF and hoisted vertically onto the MLP, which will transport the fully assembled rocket to the launch pad for countdown, fueling, and liftoff.

The first stage of the Atlas V will be powered by liquid oxygen and highly refined kerosene propellant, generating an impressive 860,200 pounds (3.83 mega-Newtons) of thrust to propel the rocket during the initial four minutes of flight. Additionally, five GEM 63 solid rocket boosters (SRBs) were installed on the side of the first stage from July 14 through July 19. These SRBs will be ignited at liftoff to augment the main engine, providing two-thirds of the launch power, each delivering 371,550 pounds (1.6 mega-Newtons) of thrust for the first 90 seconds of flight.

The Centaur upper stage, featuring a single RL10C-1-1 engine that burns liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, was integrated with the first stage on July 24. The RL10C-1-1 engine produces 23,825 pounds (106 kilo-Newtons) of thrust.

In the coming days, the Atlas V rocket will undergo testing, and a Wet Dress Rehearsal will be conducted to ensure everything is in order before the payload, SILENTBARKER, is encapsulated and integrated atop the Atlas V later in August for the final launch preparations.

ULA has yet to announce a targeted launch date.

About NROL-107

The SILENTBARKER payload, developed and operated jointly by the NRO and the U.S. Space Force, is designed to support national security and provide crucial intelligence data to U.S. senior policy makers, the Intelligence Community, and the Department of Defense.

Its primary objective is to search, detect, and track objects from space-based sensors, enabling timely custody and event detection. This surveillance from space will overcome existing ground sensor limitations by offering 24-hour above-the-weather collection of satellite metric data, providing critical information to satellite operators, analysts, and other mission users.

The NRO, with over six decades of experience in space-based intelligence, continues to leverage its vantage point in space to address important national security questions and deliver the intelligence required by stakeholders when they need it most.