Alabama’s ULA launches another national security space mission
Alabama rocket builder United Launch Alliance (ULA) continued its 100% mission success rate when it launched another national security space mission on Friday evening.
Carrying the NROL-101 mission for that National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), ULA’s Atlas V rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station with 1.8 million pounds of thrust.
The NRO is a joint Department of Defense-Intelligence Community organization and is tasked with operating the nation’s intelligence satellites used for national security.
ULA has a long history of providing the NRO and other members of America’s intelligence community with launch capabilities.
Gary Wentz, vice president of Government and Commercial Programs for ULA, recognized these partnerships in a statement from the company.
“Thank you to our mission partners, the NRO and the United States Space Force for their continued confidence and partnership with ULA,” said Wentz. “This launch was the inaugural launch of our new GEM 63 solid rocket motors, an instrumental step for ULA to build flight experience in preparation for the Vulcan Centaur, our next generation launch vehicle.”
The mission launched on an Atlas V 531, built at ULA’s 1.6 million square foot manufacturing facility in Decatur, included a 17-foot payload fairing.
ULA’s president and CEO, Tory Bruno, recently spoke of the need for America to continue developing a national security space strategy.
He said such a strategy needs to take into account threats in orbit.
“We are heading back immediately today into an environment of pure competition,” Bruno elaborated. “With a resurgent Russia, a rising China, countries that have ambitions around the world that not only potentially limit America’s influence but potentially limit the growth and expansion of democracy and freedom to be curtailed by totalitarian regimes and governments.”
Bruno sees access to space as essential for America to maintain its position of strength, saying that while the U.S. military is not the largest in the world, it is the most capable because it is enabled by space.
“For the first time in history, space, the previously historically peaceful domain is now being weaponized as we speak by these adversaries,” Bruno remarked. “That brings with it the potential to limit our unrivaled use of space to keep the peace around the globe.”
He said other nations seeking to weaken the U.S. military are attempting to take space away because that is a far easier approach than conventional warfare.
By the end of last year, the Air Force had 80 satellites in use, the Navy had 13, and the National Reconnaissance Office was utilizing 40, with the smallest satellite being the size of a toaster and the biggest the size of a school bus.
This was the 86th launch of the Atlas V rocket and the 71st Atlas V to launch from Space Launch Complex-41 in Florida.
ULA’s next launch is the NROL-44 mission for the NRO.
Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia