Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Delta IV Heavy rocket lifts off with classified payload NROL-26

A Delta IV Heavy rocket lifts off with classified payload NROL-26
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A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral on January 18, 2009. This was the first Delta IV Heavy mission for the NRO, carrying a classified intelligence-gathering satellite, designated NROL-26, aka USA-202. This was the third Delta IV Heavy launch in Delta program history. A Delta IV Heavy demonstration flight occurred in December 2004, and the first Air Force operational mission was launched in November 2007.
The ULA Delta IV Heavy vehicle featured a center common booster core with two strap-on common booster cores. Each common booster core was powered by the RS-68 cryogenic engine. An RL10B-2 cryogenic engine powered the second stage. Both engines are built by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. The payload was encased by a 5-meter diameter (16.7-foot diameter) aluminum, tri-sector payload fairing. ULA constructed the Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle in Decatur, Ala.
The payload for this mission was highly classified and the NRO is providing few details about the spacecraft. However, Aviation Week & Space Technology and the website have reported that NROL-26 is a 12,000 pound signal intelligance satellite with an antenna as wide as 350 feet.
From its geostationary perch, the satellite provides key intelligence on the communications of hostile parties such as Iran and al Qeada for the White House, NSA and the Pentagon.
Credit: Pat Coprkery / ULA

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