While the battle between SpaceX and United Launch Alliance continues over the future of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, ULA extended its streak ofi successful missions with the launch today of an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral. Carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, the Atlas blasted off from Space Launch Complex-41 on May 22 at 9:09 a.m. EDT. Designated NROL-33, the classified mission is in support of national defense.
“This morning’s successful launch of NROL-33 is continued evidence of the NRO, the Air Force, and industry partners working as one team with a common mission and commitment to the national security of the United States and its allies. I’m extremely proud of our talented, dedicated, and focused NRO, contractor, and Air Force team!” said Colonel Clint Hunt, USAF, Director, NRO Office of Space Launch.
NROL-33 is the second of three 2014 NRO launches. The next NRO launch is on schedule for late 2014, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
“Congratulations to all of our mission partners on today’s successful launch of the NROL-33 mission! The ULA team is honored to deliver another critical national security asset to orbit together with the NRO Office of Space Launch and the Air Force,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Atlas and Delta Programs. “Today’s launch occurred six days after last week’s GPS IIF-6 launch – the second time this year that this team has launched back-to-back missions within a week. Successfully launching at this tempo is a testament to the team’s focus on mission success, one-launch-at-a-time, and continuous improvement of our launch processes.”
This mission was launched aboard an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) 401 configuration vehicle, which includes a 4-meter-diameter payload fairing. The Atlas booster for this mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine, and the Centaur upper stage was powered by a single Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10A engine.
The 45th Space Wing commander was pleased with the performance of the team for this launch.
“This is the culmination of a lot of long hours and hard work by the entire mission team, which included the wing, NRO, ULA and other mission partners,” said Brig. Gen. Nina Armagno, who also served as the mission Launch Decision Authority.
“This successful launch helps to ensure that vital NRO resources will continue to bolster our national defense while showcasing why the 45th Space Wing is the world’s premiere gateway to space,” Armagno said.
“We look forward to many more successful launches along the beautiful Space Coast during the rest of 2014,” she added.
ULA’s next launch is the Delta II OCO-2 mission for NASA, scheduled for July 1 from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
The EELV program was established by the United States Air Force to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads. The commercially developed EELV program supports the full range of government mission requirements, while delivering on schedule and providing significant cost savings over the heritage launch systems.
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