The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), in partnership with U.S. Space Force Space Launch Delta 30, and SpaceX, successfully launched the NROL-146 mission on May 22, 2024, from Space Launch Complex-4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base (VSFB), California. This launch marks the first launch of NRO’s proliferated architecture.

NROL-85 Mission Emblem

About the Mission Emblem

The emblem's blue circles artistically depict a proliferated constellation of satellites, reflecting the new paradigm for assets the NRO is putting on orbit. The constellation design also suggests an eye's iris, reflecting the NRO's reconnaissance mission – seeing Earth from the perspective of stars. Additional design elements include the limitless horizon and the path to orbit with a four-point star. The tagline, "Strength in Numbers," describes the NRO's new strategy of a proliferated overhead architecture – numerous, smaller satellites designed for capability and resilience.

Launch Vehicle

Falcon 9

Space X logo Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX for the reliable and safe transport of satellites and the Dragon spacecraft into orbit.


Made of a carbon composite material, the fairing protects satellites on their way to orbit. The fairing is jettisoned approximately three minutes into flight, and SpaceX continues to recover fairings for reuse on future missions.

First Stage

Falcon 9’s first stage incorporates nine Merlin engines and aluminum-lithium alloy tanks containing liquid oxygen and rocketgrade kerosene (RP-1) propellant, generating more than 1.7 million pounds of thrust at sea level. After separation, the fist stage will return to Landing Zone 4.


The interstage is a composite structure that connects the first and second stages, and houses the pneumatic pushers that allow the first and second stage to separate during flight.

Grid fins: Falcon 9 is equipped with four hypersonic grid fins positioned at the base of the interstage. They orient the rocket during reentry by moving the center of pressure.

Second Stage

Powered by a single Merlin Vacuum Engine, the second stage delivers Falcon 9’s payload to the desired orbit. The engine ignites a few seconds after stage separation, and can be restarted several times to place multiple payloads into different orbits.

Site Info

VSFB is headquarters to Space Launch Delta 30. SLD 30 manages Department of Defense space and missile testing, and placement of satellites into orbit from the U.S. west coast. On Sept. 27, 2021, VSFB launched their 2,000th rocket into orbit

Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E)

SLC-4E was formerly called PALC2-4 and previously used by Atlas and Titan rockets between 1963 and 2005. It was built for use by Atlas-Agena rockets, but was later rebuilt to handle Titan rockets. The designation SLC-4E was applied at the time of the conversion to launch Titans. SLC-4E is leased as a launch site for the Falcon 9 rocket, which first flew from VSFB on Sept. 29, 2013 following a 24-month refurbishment program, which had started in early 2011.

Falcon 9 Illustration
Download the NROL-146 Press Release

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