Rocket launch to carry spy satellites into space

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United Launch Alliance (ULA) is planning to conduct its first launch of 2018 this afternoon with a spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office as its payload.

"ULA and the NRO [National Reconnaissance Office] will be hoping for a better outcome as reports emerged that Zuma was likely met with an untimely demise shortly after arriving in orbit", ULA stated in a press release. The mission is dubbed NROL-47.

However, we can make a few inferences.

Thursday's delays were due to an issue with a ground system valve, according to ULA, which had also earlier reported issues with swing arms, which connect parts of the rocket to the launchpad and typically move away from the vehicle between ignition and liftoff. The launch was then delayed by about an hour due to a ground system helium issue. Orbital ATK's contributions to the Delta IV include cutting-edge technologies from across the company, including two Graphite Epoxy Motors (GEM 60), large composite structures and the propellant tank and nozzle for the main engine.

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"We are ready and eager to take on this Delta launch", Wood said in a Friday release sent out by VAFB public affairs. They burned for about 90 seconds and provided more than 560,000 pounds of thrust.

The GEM 60s provided additional thrust to the lone Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A engine located in the Delta IV's first stage.

The blastoff and initial phases of the rocket's flight were a success.

ULA's next planned flight is the launch of an Atlas V 411 rocket with the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO Flight 4 spacecraft for the U.S. Air Force. As a young Star Trek fan he participated in the letter-writing campaign which resulted in the space shuttle prototype being named Enterprise.

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