SpaceX Launches Multiple NRO Satellites From Vandenberg Space Force Base – Spaceflight Now

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Vandenberg Space Force Base on mission NROL-186 on June 28, 2024. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX launched a national security mission on behalf of the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Friday night. The spy agency described the classified mission as “the second launch of the NRO’s deployed architecture, which provides critical space-based ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) services to the nation.”

The Falcon 9 rocket supporting this mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at the opening of a two-hour window, at 8:14 PM PST (11:14 PM EDT, 0314 UTC).

The Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting this mission, SpaceX fleet number B1081, was launched for the eighth time. Its previous missions have included launching the Crew-7 astronaut mission to the International Space Station, two climate monitoring satellites (NASA’s PACE and ESA’s EarthCARE) and two Starlink flights.

Just over eight minutes after liftoff, B1081 touched down with the unmanned spacecraft “Of Course I Still Love You.” It was the 95th landing for the OCISLY booster and the 326th landing to date.

Proliferating architecture grows

This mission was the second launch of NRO’s so-called “proliferating structure”, following the launch of the NROL-146 mission in May. Reports from Reuters earlier this year indicated that these satellites are based on the Starshield satellite bus built by SpaceX in partnership with Northrop Grumman.

In a statement to Spaceflight Now, the National Reconnaissance Organization said:

“NRO systems are designed, built, and operated by the NRO. As a matter of national security, we do not discuss companies associated with building our systems, our contractual relationships with them, their specific activities, or the locations where NRO systems are built.

See also  How Voyager Probes Keep Going Decades After Their Launch

The agency also declined to confirm how many satellites are on the missions or their orbits. In a speech at this year’s Space Symposium in Colorado, There will be “about half a dozen such launches” this year, said Dr. Troy Mink, deputy principal director of the National Reconnaissance Organization.

This mission was not purchased as part of the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase II mission order. This is because the NRO needed these missions to move forward before assigning the mission orders to Phase III.

“NRO partnered with the USSF Space Systems Command’s Assured Space Access Team on the Phase 3 acquisition and influenced the development of Phase 3, Track 1 – as a way to procure flexible launch solutions while ensuring a customizable mission,” an NRO spokesperson said. In the current situation. “When considering the launch cadence and the need for ad hoc mission assurance, the NRO recognized that we needed a bridge between Phase 2 to Phase 3 – Track 1. This led to the procurement of some missions outside of the NSSL. The NSSL has been, and will continue to be, the NRO’s primary mechanism for procurement Launch services.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *