The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) was proud to partner with United Launch Alliance (ULA) on our 17th launch aboard an Atlas V launch vehicle. The NROL- 101 mission launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Florida, and carried a national security payload designed, built and operated by the agency. NROL-101 supported NRO’s overall national security mission to provide intelligence data to the United States’ senior policy makers, the Intelligence Community and Department of Defense. This was our 29th launch in partnership with ULA, alongside other mission partners at U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center and the 45th Space Wing. The NRO’s also launched from CCAFS was NROL-108 on a Falcon 9 with SpaceX.

About the Mission Emblem

The emblem pays tribute to the Lord of the Rings stories, with a gold ring and Elvish script that translates to “Goodness Persists”.

Launch Vehicle

Atlas V

United Launch Alliance logo United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V is a heavy-lift launch vehicle and is the latest evolution of this legendary family. Atlas V uses a standard common core booster, up to five solid rocket boosters (SRBs), a Centaur upper stage in a single- or dual-engine configuration, and one of several sizes of payload fairings. This launch vehicle, in an Atlas V 531 configuration, has a 5-meter (18 ft.) diameter payload fairing, three solid rocket boosters, and stands at 63 meters (206 ft.) tall. At liftoff, the launch vehicle will weigh 1.08 million lbs and the thrust will be 1.76 million lbs. The Atlas V 531 first launched on Aug. 14, 2010 and has launched three times to date.

Main Engine

Delivering more than 860,000 pounds of thrust at liftoff and an impressive range of continuous throttling capability, the RD-180 main engine uses liquid oxygen/ liquid kerosene, a two-thrust-chamber, hydraulics for control valve actuation and thrust vector gimbaling, pneumatics for valve actuation and system purging, and a thrust frame to distribute loads.

Upper Stage

RL10 engines harness the power of high-energy liquid hydrogen. The RL10 boasts a precision control system and restart capability to accurately place payloads into orbit. The Atlas V Centaur upper stage is powered by the RL10C and can be configured with either one or two engines.

Solid Rocket Boosters

When missions demand additional thrust at liftoff, Atlas integrates up to five SRBs on the Atlas V 500 series vehicles.

GEM 63

NROL-101 will be the first ULA launch vehicle flying the new Graphite Epoxy Motors (GEM) 63 that burn solid propellant and augment the lifting capacity of rocket’s first stage. ULA will be transitioning from Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ60-A Solid Rocket Boosters to the Northrup Grumman GEMs throughout 2021.

United Launch Alliance

With more than a century of combined heritage, ULA has successfully delivered 140 missions to orbit that aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, deliver cutting-edge commercial services and enable GPS navigation.

Site Info

Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC- 41)

NROL-101 launched from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. In addition to supporting Atlas V launches, SLC-41 is also home to United Launch Alliance’s newest launch vehicle, the Vulcan Centaur. Previously, SLC-41 was used by the U.S. Air Force for Titan III and Titan IV launches. Titan was a family of expendable rockets used between 1959 and 2005; Titan III and IV vehicles were used to lift U.S. military and intelligence payloads, as well as all of the Project Gemini crewed flights of the mid-1960s. After the last Titan launch, SLC-41 was renovated to support the Atlas V, with the first ever Atlas V launched from SLC-41 on August 21, 2002. Atlas V rockets are assembled vertically on a mobile launch platform (MLP) in the Vertical Integration Facility located to the south of the pad. The MLP is then transported to the launch pad on rails before launch.

Atlas Five Illustration

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National Reconnaissance Office - Above and Beyond