Five days after a presumed spy satellite was lost following launch from Florida, another clandestine satellite, this one owned by the National Reconnaissance Office, was boosted into space Friday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Thursday's launch will be ULA's 27th for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.
While details about the payload are classified, groups of amateur satellite trackers can use clues to narrow down the nature of the satellite, including its likely orbit and technology.
The Delta IV carrying NROL-47 rises into the California sky on January 12, 2018. The NRO publicized the launch with generic tweets, saying the mission was the first of two planned by the agency this year.
There are three variants of Delta IV M+ configuration.
"We are ready and eager to take on this Delta launch", Wood said in a Friday release sent out by VAFB public affairs. The booster and upper stage engines are both built by Aerojet Rocketdyne. The RS-68A engine provided an estimated 702,000 pounds of thrust during the initial phase of the flight.
Yesterday, weather and other technical issues forced a delay.
This is ULA's first launch in 2018 and the 124 successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006. As a young Star Trek fan he participated in the letter-writing campaign which resulted in the space shuttle prototype being named Enterprise.
Jim resides in the San Francisco Bay area and has attended NASA Socials for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover landing and the NASA LADEE lunar orbiter launch.