New Spy Satellite Launched in U.S. by Atlas V Rocket

The United States launched a second spy satellite in the last three weeks over the weekend.

The NROL-52 satellite was blasted into orbit Sunday October 15 riding on top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, with lift off at 3:28 a.m. from Florida’s Cape Canaveral.

The launch took place following over a week of different delays due to the replacement of a telemetry transmitter and inclement weather.

An Atlas V also gave a ride into space for the NROL-42, U.S. reconnaissance satellite that was launched on September 24 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Both satellites were built by the United States National Reconnaissance Office or NRO that operates the country’s spy satellite fleet.

Missions conducted by the NRO are usually classified making it unclear what the NROL-52 is going to be looking at while orbiting earth in an undisclosed location.

The Sunday morning pre-dawn launch, which was delayed for two days by inclement weather, and then by over a week when a telemetry transmitter had to be replaced, was ULA’s 26th satellite provided for the NRO as well as the 74th flight overall for Atlas V. To date, all of the missions have ended in success.

The launch is another testament to the dedication of the team at ULA, demonstrating why it continues to serve as country’s most dependable as well as successful launch provider, said Laura Maginnis, the Government Satellite Launch vice president at ULA in a prepared statement following Sunday’s launch.

The Sunday liftoff was just one part of a very busy week for spaceflight. On Monday October 9, a SpaceXFalcon 9 was launched from the Vandenberg base in California. The rocket carried 10 communications’ satellites into orbit for Iridium.

In addition on Monday an H-2A rocket from Japan and a Long March 2nd booster from China lifted a navigation satellite from Japan as well as a remote sensing satellite that is from the government of Venezuela respectively.

On Wednesday October 11, a communications satellite was launched by SpaceX from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. That launch included a Falcon 9 rocket with a first stage that was pre-dawn.

Both of the Falcon 9 missions featured touchdowns that were successful by the first stage of the rocket. Landing as well as the re-flying rockets is an important part of the plan by SpaceX to help in the colonization of Mars, which CEO and founder Elon Musk unveiled in September in Australia during a conference.