Lockheed Martin and Boeing“™s United Launch Alliance joint venture has launched a National Reconnaissance Office payload intended to support national defense programs aboard a commercially-developed rocket.
The Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle 501 lifted off with the NROL-39 and the auxiliary Government Experimental Multi-Satellite payload on Thursday from the Space Launch Complex-3, ULA said Friday.
Jim Sponnick, vice president of Atlas and Delta programs at ULA, said the company is honored to work with the NRO Office of Space Launch and other mission partners to launch national assets intended for national security purposes.
He added that the payloads “will test and validate new technologies for debris mitigation, propulsion, space weather, communications, on-orbit data processing and the use of commercially available components.”
The EELV is built with a Centaur upper stage and Atlas booster running on an RD AMROSS RD-180 engine.
The Centaur upper stage is powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10A-4 engine and built by ULA and NRO with a 5-meter diameter aft bulkhead carrier for supplementary payloads.
Sponnick said the additional GEMSat payload is designed with 12 CubeSats to test technologies for areas including communications, debris mitigation, space weather and propulsion.