United Launch Alliance has successfully deployed the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) NROL-42 spy satellite into orbit. The satellite was launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on September 24 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V Rocket.
“This launch is the culmination of many months of work by United Launch Alliance, the National Reconnaissance Office and the 30th Space Wing,” Gregory Wood, an Air Force Col. from the 30th Space Wing, explained in a prelaunch statement. “All of Team Vandenberg is dedicated to mission success and proud to play a part in delivering these capabilities to our nation.”
The exact functionality of NROL-42 satellite is classified with the attribution of the term, “spy satellite” merely given in recognition of the office it originates from. The satellite joins a growing fleet of NRO spacecraft each just as classified as the last.
The NRO has an interesting history following its founding in 1961. The office was founded in response to the Soviet Union’s successful launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite. The US managed to keep the existence of the NRO under wraps for the next three decades. The existence of office was finally revealed in September 1992.
This weekend’s launch marks the 15th successful NRO satellite deployment aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The launch also adds to the Atlas V’s staggering record of 73 missions without a single failure. Other mission Atlas V successes have included NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover and the New Horizons spacecraft. The company has also 10 previous NRO missions aboard their Delta IV and Delta II rockets.
United Launch Alliance is a joint partnership between aerospace titans Lockheed Martin and Boring. The company was founded in 2006 and is reported to be worth more than $2 billion.
Image Create: United Launch Alliance