A new attempt to launch a heavy launch vehicle Delta IV with the secret NROL-44 satellite of the US National Aerospace Intelligence Agency (NRO) will be made tomorrow, the operator United Launch Alliance (ULA) said.
“The launch of the NROL-44 NROL-44 heavy missile by the US National Defense Intelligence Agency is scheduled for September 26,” said ULA, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which carries out launches for the Pentagon and the US intelligence community. …
It is scheduled to take place on September 29, during a time window from 00:01 to 01:35 US East Coast time.
On August 29, due to technical problems, the launch attempt was stopped by automatic equipment just three seconds before the missile separated from the launch pad, when the ignition had already occurred. According to ULA, the reason for the cancellation of the launch was a malfunction in the ground systems at the 37th launch complex at the US air base at Cape Canaveral (Florida).
The purpose, orbit, size and other characteristics of the secret US satellite NROL-44, which is estimated at more than a billion dollars, have not been officially announced. The mission and capabilities of this type of satellites are strictly classified.
Meanwhile, according to former NASA employee David Baker, who is familiar with the NRO program, we are talking about the launch of the American Orion spacecraft, also known as Mentor or Advanced Orion, a series of American satellites designed for electronic reconnaissance.
“It weighs more than 5 tons, is equipped with a huge parabolic antenna with a diameter of over 100 meters, which is deployed in orbit,” the expert said. According to him, a giant satellite the size of a bus will be launched into an equatorial orbit with an altitude of 36 thousand km.
The main task of the new American satellite is to intercept telemetry information and listen to communication channels of geostationary satellites.
Since 1995, seven such satellites, developed by the NRO with the participation of the CIA, have already been launched into geostationary orbit. However, the current one is the largest in terms of its dimensions and weight.
Currently, 49 spacecraft of the US National Space Intelligence Agency are in Earth orbit. In total, the United States has an orbital constellation of at least 154 military satellites.
According to the expert, in comparison with the United States, today Russia has 71 military satellites in orbit, China – 63.