A Space Force mission rocket was launched after hurricane delay in Florida
MELBOURNE, Fla. — The most powerful version of United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket jumped from the Cape Canaveral pad in Florida Sunday morning on a national security mission for the U.S. Space Force and the National Reconnaissance Office.
ULA teams canceled the first launch attempt early Saturday due to “an issue discovered during a pre-launch ordnance circuit continuity check.” A day later, the countdown continued without issue, and the mission was able to lift off into clear skies moving away from the Space Coast on an easterly course over the Atlantic Ocean.
This flight marks the 48th launch from Florida’s Space Coast this year as well as ULA’s 18th and final NRO mission aboard an Atlas V rocket since 2007.
The 196-foot-tall rocket took to the sky at 8:47 a.m. ET Sunday carrying SILENTBARKER/NROL-107 payloads headed for geosynchronous orbit. The flight came after teams had to stand down last month to return the rocket to ULA’s Vertical Integration Facility for Hurricane Idalia protection.
What is the payload of the SILENTBARKER/NROL-107 mission?
Sunday’s mission included multiple payloads as a joint effort by the US Space Force and the National Reconnaissance Office. The spacecraft was part of the Space Force’s SILENTBARKER satellite constellation network intended to provide space-based situational awareness, orbital surveillance and tracking.
According to a statement from ULA, “SILENTBARKER is designed to detect and preserve space objects. This capability provides indicators and warnings of threats against high-value assets in geosynchronous orbit.”
The mission’s destination in geosynchronous orbit, about 24,000 miles above Earth, required ULA’s most powerful version of the Atlas V rocket, the 551, capable of thrusting 2.3 million pounds thanks to a single main engine and five additional solid rocket boosters.
“This is our ‘Bruiser’ configuration for the Atlas,” said Tory Bruno, CEO of ULA.
From now on, ULA’s national security missions will fly aboard the company’s next generation Vulcan Centaur rocket. It is expected that the first test flight of this vehicle will take place from the Cape sometime before the end of this year.
When will the next rocket be launched from Florida?
Although SpaceX remains unconfirmed, federal filings indicate that the next launch from Florida’s Space Coast will be another Falcon 9 Starlink mission from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
The Starlink 6-16 mission is scheduled to launch with another group of the company’s flat-panel IB satellites from Launch Complex 40 during a four-hour launch window that opens at 8:30 p.m. EDT on Thursday.
Contact Jamie Groh at JGroh@floridatoday.com and follow her X at AlteredJamie.