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Satnews Daily
December 1st, 2018

UPDATE: A New Launch Date Set by ULA for the Delta IV Heavy's Launch of the NROL-71 Satellite

The launch of the NROL-71 satellite has now been pushed out to Sunday, December 30, 2018.

The scrub of this launch for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellite had been deterred due to elevated hydrogen concentrations within the port booster engine section.

When the launch does occur, a webcast will be available at this direct link...

United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV rocket has served the nation’s high-priority U.S. Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office space programs with distinction since entering service in 2002.

United Launch Alliance is using its Delta IV Heavy rocket to launch the NROL-71 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office. The NRO is a U.S. government agency responsible for developing, acquiring, launching, and operating America’s intelligence satellites.

The National Reconnaissance Office's systems are critical to national security, U.S. policy makers, and warfighters. These systems provide the foundation for global situational awareness, and address the nation's toughest intelligence challenges. Frequently, NRO systems are the only collectors able to access critical areas of interest, and data from overhead sensors provides unique information and perspectives not available from other sources.

The NRO's key customers and mission partners include: policy makers, the Armed Services, the Intelligence Community, Departments of State, Justice and Treasury, and civil agencies. All of them depend on the unique capabilities NRO systems provide: 

  • Monitoring the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
  • Tracking international terrorists, drug traffickers, and criminal organizations
  • Developing highly accurate military targeting data and bomb damage assessments
  • Supporting international peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations
  • Assessing the impact of natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, and fires.


Together with other Defense Department satellites, the NRO systems play a crucial role in providing global communications, precision navigation, early warning of missile launches and potential military aggression, signals intelligence, and near real-time imagery to U.S. forces to support the war on terrorism and other continuing operations.

NRO satellites also support civil customers in response to disaster relief and environmental research. Scientists created a global environment database using NRO imagery to help predict climate change, assess crop production, map habitats of endangered species, track oil spills, and study wetlands. NRO data also forms the basis for products that help depict and assess the devastation in areas affected by natural disasters.

On November 1, 2018, the USS John P. Murtha recovered the test version of the Orion capsule at sunset in the Pacific Ocean. The Underway Recovery Test-7 (URT-7) is one in a series of tests that the Exploration Ground Systems Recovery Team, along with the U.S. Navy, are conducting to validate procedures and hardware that will be used to recover the Orion spacecraft after it splashes down following deep space exploration missions. Orion will have the capability to sustain the crew during space travel, provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities, and emergency abort.
Photo edited by NASA/Ron Beard, Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray

The NRO's innovation also inspired technology in everyday life with contributions to medical imaging, global communications, high-definition television, cellular phones, the global positioning system (GPS), and much more.

With its vigilance from above, the NRO gives America's policymakers, intelligence analysts, warfighters and homeland security specialists the critical information they need to keep America safe, secure, and free.

NROL-71 that will launch aboard a Delta IV Heavy rocket features three hydrogen-fueled common booster cores and a Delta Cryogenic Second Stage. The payload is protected during atmospheric ascent by a composite payload fairing.

The vehicle also launched NASA’s Orion capsule on its first orbital test flight and sent the Parker Solar Probe on its journey to become the fastest robot in history while surfing through the sun’s atmosphere. Having flown 37 missions in a variety of configurations ranging from medium-lift to heavy-lifter, the Delta IV continues the legacy of the Delta rocket family that dates to 1960.

ULA states they are the nation’s most experienced space launch company with more than 120 consecutive launches and a 100 percent mission success rate. ULA brings the utmost precision, passion and purpose to one of the most technically complex, critical American needs: affordable, reliable access to space.