In less than three weeks, the United States has launched another secret spy satellite atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket.
The Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) 421 configuration vehicle powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine, and the Centaur upper stage powered by the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C-1 engine lifted off at 3:28 a.m. EDT (0728 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carries on-board the NROL-52 satellite.
The EELV program was established by the USAF to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads until they were joined by the Falcon 9.
This satellite along with its cousin NROL-42, was built by the U.S National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) which operates the nation’s fleet of spy satellites. NRO missions tend to be classified, so it’s unclear what exactly NROL-52 will be looking at as it zips around Earth in its undisclosed orbit.
Laura Maginnis, ULA vice president of Government Satellite Launch says that “today’s launch is a testament to the tireless dedication of the ULA team, demonstrating why ULA continues to serve as our nation’s most dependable and successful launch provider”.