SILENTBARKER/NROL-107: Atlas V stacked for national security launch

August 2, 2023


United Launch Alliance (ULA) is readying an Atlas V 551 rocket to launch from Cape Canaveral on Aug. 29 carrying the SILENTBARKER/NROL-107 mission, a joint National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and U.S. Space Force (USSF) capability to improve space domain awareness. 

Launch preparations began July 13 when ULA technicians commenced stacking of the Atlas V rocket aboard the mobile launch platform (MLP) inside the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF), which is located adjacent to Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. 

The first stage was brought over the road to the VIF and then hoisted vertically to stand aboard the MLP, which will carry the completed rocket to the pad for the countdown, fueling and liftoff.

The first stage will consume liquid oxygen and highly refined kerosene propellant to generate 860,200 pounds (3.83 mega-Newtons) of thrust to propel the Atlas V during the initial four minutes of flight.

From July 14 through July 19, five GEM 63 solid rocket boosters (SRBs) were installed on the side of the first stage. They will be ignited at liftoff to augment the main engine and provide two-thirds of the power at launch, each delivering 371,550 pounds (1.6 mega-Newtons) of thrust through the first 90 seconds of flight.

The Centaur upper stage was lifted into the VIF on July 24 and connected to the first stage. The cryogenic stage's single RL10C-1-1 engine -- a new and higher performing variant of the venerable engine family -- burns liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to produce 23,825 pounds (106 kilo-Newtons) of thrust.

Centaur is hoisted atop the Atlas V first stage. Photo by United Launch AllianceTesting of rocket systems and a Wet Dress Rehearsal will be completed in the coming days, leading to the encapsulated payload arriving at the VIF for integration atop the Atlas V later in August for final launch preps.

The launch extends a partnership between the NRO and ULA that began with our very first mission in 2006 and now totals 33 successes. This will be ULA's 34th launch for the NRO and our second consecutive mission of the summer for the agency following NROL-68 launched on a Delta IV Heavy on June 22. 

The SILENTBARKER payload is designed, built and operated by the NRO in partnership with the U.S. Space Force to support national security and provide intelligence data to U.S. senior policy makers, the Intelligence Community and Department of Defense.

The NRO has spent more than 60 years seeing, hearing and sensing things you can only learn from the vantage point of space. The agency is using that vantage point to help find the answers to some of the nation’s most important national security questions, providing stakeholders with the intelligence they need, when they need it.

SILENTBARKER will provide the capability to search, detect and track objects from  space-based sensors for timely custody and event detection. Surveillance from space augments and overcomes existing ground sensor limitations with timely 24-hour above-the-weather collection of satellite metric data only possible with a space-based sensor and then communicates its findings to satellite operators, analysts, and other mission users. This program element includes efforts related to SILENTBARKER, its integration into the broader space superiority architecture, and analysis and experimentation to ensure space-based space surveillance capabilities against the evolving threat.

Learn more about the SILENTBARKER/NROL-107 launch
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