Spaceflight Insider

ULA Delta IV with classified NRO payload set for Feb. 10 launch from Vandenberg

United Launch Alliance Delta IV Medium+ 5,2 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 37 in Florida. Photo Credit: Jared Haworth / We Report Space

Photo Credit: Jared Haworth / We Report Space

United Launch Alliance (ULA), the U.S. Air Force’s 30th Space Wing, and the National Reconnaissance Office are eyeing a Wednesday, Feb. 10, launch for a ULA Delta IV Medium+ 5,2 rocket and its secret NROL-45 payload. The mission is set to get underway at 3:39 a.m. PDT from Space Launch Complex-6 in California.

Mission logo art for NROL-45 image credit: United Launch Alliance

Image Credit: ULA

While little is known about the spacecraft that will ride the Delta IV aloft, the final approving authority for the launch will fall on the 30th Space Wing’s Commander, Col. J. Christopher Moss.

“We are excited and ready to take on our first Delta launch of 2016,” Moss said via an Air Force-issued release. “We are proud to showcase this national capability and everyone involved has been working tirelessly to ensure this launch is a safe and successful one.”

At present, final preparations for launch are being carried out at Vandenberg with the base’s 4th Space Wing, ULA, the NRO and Aerospace Corporation all working together to get the sensitive cargo started on its journey into the black of space.

“A launch like this takes teamwork and dedication,” said Lt. Col. Eric Zarybnisky, 4th SLS commander. “Our mission assurance technicians and engineers have worked hand-in-hand with United Launch Alliance going over critical procedures and tasks to certify this launch is secure.”

This is the first flight of a Delta IV rocket in 2016 and the second overall carried out by the Western Range. Colorado-based United Launch Alliance has a busy manifest this year, with no fewer than 14 missions slated to take to the skies from Vandenberg and from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida between now and the end of 2016.

The Medium version of ULA’s Delta IV family of boosters is designed to be configured to deliver an array of payload classes to orbit. The family has five primary configurations: Medium, Medium+ (4,2), Medium+ (5,2), Medium+ (5,4), and Heavy. To date, the Delta IV has only been used once for a non-Department of Defense payload – the Dec. 2014 launch of NASA’s Exploration Flight Test 1 (which used the heavy configuration of the booster).

Delta IV Medium+ 5,2 rocket payload fairing at Vandenberg Air Force Base for NROL-45 mission photo credit ULA

The NROL-45 PLF at Vandenberg’s SLC-6. Photo Credit: United Launch Alliance


Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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