The NROL-71 is set to be launched aboard a Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex 6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The rocket is scheduled to lift off at 19:05 UTC (11:05 PST).
The NROL-71 is a classified satellite developed for the National Reconnaissance Office by Lockheed Martin Space Systems. Although unconfirmed, it is believed that the payload is a next-generation Block V KH-11 optical imaging reconnaissance satellite.
The Delta IV Heavy is comprised of three Common Booster Cores and a Delta Cryogenic Second Stage. The rocket stands at 72 meters and is capable of deploying up to 28,790 kg (63,470 lb) into low Earth orbit. This morning’s launch is the 132nd for United Launch Alliance and the 382nd aboard a Delta launch vehicle.
The launch site
Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 6 (SLC-6) was originally built to support Titan III launches for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) in the 1960s. However, after the MOL programme was canceled, the launch facility was abandoned.
In the 1980s, over $4 billion dollars was poured into developing the site to utilise it to launch shuttle missions. Construction was completed in 1985. However, after the Challenger Disaster, the launch site was again abandoned.
The launch pad would finally see its first action in 1995 with the launch of an Athena I. Since then, the site has been used to launch Athena I and Athena II rockets, and various variants of the Delta IV.