Launch of ULA Delta IV rocket with NROL-47 delayed
The launch of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Medium+ (5,2) rocket carrying the NROL-47 payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has been delayed until no earlier than Jan. 10, 2018, in order to perform additional validation of the software and systems associated with Common Avionics. The launch was originally scheduled for Dec. 13, 2017, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
When it takes to the skies, this mission will mark the first flight of the Common Avionics System. Although little is known about the actual payload, NROL-47 is believed to be a reconnaissance satellite that will be placed into a retrograde orbit inclined 123 degrees. The satellite is part of a constellation of satellites called the Future Imagery Architecture, flying under the code name Topaz.
The NRO, a branch of the Department of Defense (DoD), develops reconnaissance satellites to provide intelligence to several government agencies.
The delay of the launch should allow for more tests on the avionics equipment’s software.
A written statement from ULA noted the following: “Common Avionics is a newly designed suite of avionics, flight software and ground systems that will fly on both Atlas V and Delta IV. This upgraded command and control system was designed to reduce cost and improve reliability. NROL-47 will be the first flight of the Common Avionics system on Delta IV. The vehicle and spacecraft remain stable.”
This will be the last launch of the M+ (5,2) version of the Delta Iv rocket, which has two solid rocket boosters and a five-meter second stage and payload fairing. The Common Avionics system is planned for use on all future Delta IV and Atlas V flights.
The NROL-5 mission will be launched from Space Launch Complex 6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base. This will be ULA’s first launch of 2018, the 27th for the NRO and the 36th flight of a member of the Delta IV family of rockets, which first flew in 2002.
Collin R. Skocik has been captivated by space flight since the maiden flight of space shuttle Columbia in April of 1981. He frequently attends events hosted by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, and has met many astronauts in his experiences at Kennedy Space Center. He is a prolific author of science fiction as well as science and space-related articles. In addition to the Voyage Into the Unknown series, he has also written the short story collection The Future Lives!, the science fiction novel Dreams of the Stars, and the disaster novel The Sunburst Fire. His first print sale was Asteroid Eternia in Encounters magazine. When he is not writing, he provides closed-captioning for the hearing impaired. He lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida.