Atlas V with NROL-55 already tomorrow!

NROL-55 mission for National Reconnaissance Office will be launched on 8th of October 2015 from Vandenberg, California. It will utilize United Launch Alliance ATLAS V rocket.

Next classified mission is starting on 8th October from  Vandenberg AFB SLC-3. As usual with NRO mission payload   has not been made public. Auxiliary payload is known – thirteen Cubesat  satellites sponsored by NRO (9) and NASA (4). As far as NROL mission patches are well known, this time graphic theme is mythological centaur with starting Atlas rocket behind.

United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is last from Atlas series. Created by Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services is two stage rocket with height on 58.3 meters and weight 334,500 kilograms. First stage is powered by Russian RD-180 engine with thrust about 4 meganewtons. Second stage is powered by two Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10A-4-2, each one providing 99.2 kN of thrust. If needed thrust of first stage can be supported by up to five solid fuel rocket boosters with 1.27 meganewtons for 94 seconds. Atlas V payload is 9,800–18,810 kilograms for low earth orbit; for geostationary transfer orbit is 4,750–8,900 kilograms.

National Reconnaissance Office is one of “big five” security and defense agencies in USA with headquarters in Virginia. Established in 1961, with 3000 personnel operates space and air recon missions for both military and civilian intelligence agencies. As a part of Department of Defense NRO has budget of $15 billion (2015).