The United Launch Alliance successfully unveiled the ULA’s new solid fuel booster design Friday night from Cape Canaveral to the top of the Atlas 5 rocket, a top secret cargo for the U.S. government’s spy satellite agency. Previous strap-on motors.
The new booster design, manufactured by Northrobe Krumman and named GEM63, replaces the AJ-60A solid rocket boosters from the previous Atlas 5 passenger-powered aerojet rocket.
The Russian-made RD-180 engine, equipped with three GEM 63 boosters and a kerosene fuel, produced the 206-foot (63 m) Atlas 5 at க 1.8 million driven to launch from Cape Canaveral at 5:32 p.m. pm EST (2232 GMT) Friday.
Three hours later, the ULA and the National Reassessment Office, which had the payload launched from the Atlas 5 rocket, released news reports announcing the success of the mission.
The Atlas 5 mission has been delayed several times since the original launch attempt scheduled for November 3rd.
The ULA Atlas 5 rocket was rolled back to its hangar, the environmental control system to replace the tube, fed into the payload above the launch of the launched air, set to a countdown on November 4, and then wiped out due to a problem with the ground valves on the launch pad pad 41 system.
Once the teams had resolved the valve issue, the ULA decided to return the rocket to its vertical hanger to protect it from bad weather from Tropical Storm Etta. The Atlas 5 went back to Bat 41 on Thursday afternoon to prepare for Friday’s release opportunity.
Two minor technical concerns delayed the launch of the window by 19 minutes on Friday evening, but the ULA resolved the issues and the launch team approved to proceed with the terminal countdown as soon as the sun went down on Florida’s Space Beach.
The Atlas 5’s RD-180 main engine dissolved in minus 2.7 seconds, just minutes after igniting some GEM 63 strap-on boosters. After passing through low clouds, the missile came northeast and rose into the light from sunset, illuminating the rocket’s smoke hole in orange.
Three solid fuel boosters burned out of the rocket for about two minutes on the plane, clearly visible when the spent motor casings fell on the rise of the Atlas 5. After the Atlas 5 reached the upper layers of the atmosphere, the Swiss-made payload fairing of the rocket was dropped after a three-minute journey, revealing the NRO’s assorted payload.
At the time, the task entered into a government-ordered press blackout, highlighting the key nature of national security pay. The live broadcast of the ULA was over, and the rest of the work took place in secret. The Atlas 5’s centerpiece was expected to take its aeroget rocket RL10 engine for several tests before using the NRO payload in orbit.
The NRO released the EDT (0144 GMT) press release at 8:44 pm to confirm the successful outcome of the launch site known as NROL-101.
“The successful launch of NROL-101 is another example of the NRO’s commitment to continuing to develop our vital national security systems to support our defense and intelligence partners,” said Col. Chad Davis, Director of the NRO’s Space Launch Office.
“2020 will be a challenging year for the COVID-19 epidemic in the missile and space community,” Davis said in a statement. “I am constantly impressed by our partners and our NRO team members’ ability to find new and innovative ways to collaborate in this environment and to ensure that we meet our mission needs while prioritizing the safety, security and health of our entire startup team.”
The NRO did not release any information about the flight of the payload on the NROL-101 mission, but warning notices issued to the aircraft and navy indicated that the Atlas 5 rocket was heading northeast from Cape Canaveral, the coast before flying near the Canadian waters following a route parallel to the U.S. East.
The trajectory indicated that the Atlas 5 would release the NRO payload into high-slope orbit.
The NRO owns data relay satellites and a number of spacecraft, designed to intercept communication signals in the elliptical Molniya type orbit at altitudes of about 25,000 miles (40,000 km) above Earth. Those orbits tilt 63 degrees to the equator, giving the satellites regular views of Russia and other parts of the Northern Hemisphere.
According to several independent experts who monitor the operation of the spy satellite, the Atlas 5 launch was aimed at a similar Molniya-type orbit on Friday night.
Ted Molkson, leader of the global community of entertainment that effectively monitors satellite movements, wrote online Seasat-L Forum He believes the pay for NRO-101 mission could be a new spacecraft for the Navy with NRO’s Satellite Data System.
SDS, or Quasar, satellites provide relay images to analysts from NRO’s sharp-eyed optical and radar surveillance satellites, allowing users to capture images faster than spy satellites waiting to fly over a ground station.
SDS satellites fly 22,000 miles (approximately 36,000 km) above the equator in Molniya orbit and geostationary orbit. The last two SDS satellites launched into Molniya orbit were launched in 2004 and 2007, which means it’s time to join an alternative navy, Molkson says.
The NRO launched new signal intelligence satellites into Molniya orbit in 2014 and 2017. “It looks like an alternative or a new generation very soon this year,” Molkson wrote.
The signals are frequently sent from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to the Molniya Orbit, while the SDS satellites are launched from Cape Canaveral, Molkson said.
“The information gathered by the NRO’s national security agencies is used to provide intelligence to senior policymakers, the intelligence community and the Department of Defense and US affiliates,” the NRO said in a statement. “In addition, the data collected by NRO organizations will be used to assist emergency and disaster relief efforts in the United States and around the world.”
The NROL-101 mission is the 30th launch of the ULA for the National Reassessment Office.
“Thanks to our mission partners, the NRO and the United States Air Force for our continued trust and partnership with the ULA,” said Gary Vents, Vice President of the ULA Government and Business Programs. “This launch is the launch pad of our new GEM63 solid rocket motors, a tool by ULA to build the aeronautical experience in preparation for our next generation launch vehicle, the Vulcan Center.”
The new GEM63 motors, which were unveiled at the Atlas 5 launch pad on Friday night, are 66 feet (20 meters) long and 63 inches (1.6 meters) wide. GEM 63 motors can produce a thrust of 373,800 pounds at maximum power.
They are designed to ignite at the launch pad and burn for 94 seconds, using a pre-loaded solid impulse of 97,500 pounds (44.2 metric tons) before falling into the sea.
The GEM63 booster design is an evolution of the 60-inch GEM60 motor built by Northrop Krumman for ULA’s Delta 4 rocket family. Delta 4s that require a GEM 60 solid rocket booster are not yet available to fly.
Northrop Grooman, through its predecessors ADK and Orbital ADK, provided small strap-on boosters to the now-retired Delta 2 and Delta 3 rocket families.
Boosters give extra impetus to rockets that carry heavy payloads into orbit, or tasks that require satellites to be placed in high-altitude orbit. The Atlas 5 rocket can carry between zero and five solid-fuel boosters depending on the needs of each mission.
Like the AJ-60A motor that flew on previous Atlas 5s, the GEM63 motor has fixed nozzles and a curved, or ogive, nose cone that provides the perfect aerodynamic shape to ensure it falls cleanly from the Atlas 5 after the booster burns out. . Northrobe Krumman’s GEM63 booster produces almost the same thrust and has the same dimensions as the AJ-60A, allowing ULA to introduce a new booster model as a “direct alternative” to the older Aerojet rocket version.
Aerojet Rocket’s AJ-60A motor has achieved a flawless record since its first use on the third launch pad of the Atlas 5 in July 2003, with 127 boosters flying to date.
In order to provide solid rocket boosters for future Atlas 5 launches and the next-generation Vulcan Center rocket, Orbital ADK, now part of Northrop Krumman, At the time, the ULA said that choosing the GEM63 rocket motor would “significantly reduce costs for the ULA and the US government”.
Developed with the help of advanced robotics and automation, Northrop Krumman boosters are also designed to be easily integrated with a vehicle launched in a vertical integration facility, the company said.
The longer version of the GEM 63, known as the GEM 63XL, will fly on ULA’s new Vulcan Center rocket, scheduled for launch in the second half of 2021. The Atlas 5 rocket can fly with any solid rocket boosters from zero to five, with the Vulcan Centaur starting with two Blue Origin PE-4 main engines of the rocket in configurations with two, four or six boosters.
At a test site in Promontory, Utah, Northrop Grooman performed three test-trials of the GEM 63 boosters, before engineers removed the solid fuel rocket motor for the aircraft.
The AJ-60A motors coming from the aerojet rocket have not yet been made.
ULA spokeswoman Julie Arnold said earlier this year the company will fly the boosters of the Aerojet rocket on future Atlas 5 passengers, until the rocket is fully converted to Northrop Kroman motors. The AJ-60As will continue to travel with Boeing’s Starliner business team capsule, and ULA is working with NASA toward future use of the GEM63 in astronaut launches.
Arnold said the ULA plans to use the new GEM63 for all Atlas 5 launches after 2021.
ULA’s next objective is to launch another classified NRO spy satellite payload on a Delta 4-heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral. That mission, designated NROL-44, was due to depart in August, but a series of launch issues have kept the Delta 4-heavy on the ground.
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