A National Reconnaissance Office payload took off on Saturday aboard a United Launch Alliance-built Delta IV Heavy rocket that launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California as part of the NROL-91 national security mission.
“This mission was ULA’s 96th National Security mission and the NRO’s 10th mission on board a Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle – a history that we are very proud of,” Gary Wentz, vice president of government and commercial programs at the Boeing–Lockheed Martin joint venture, said in a statement published Saturday.
Wentz noted that the mission marks the company’s fifth and final Delta IV Heavy launch from the West Coast and ULA looks forward to preparing Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg for future Vulcan flights.
NROL-91 will provide space-based intelligence information to U.S. warfighters, decision-makers and intelligence analysts to help them protect national security and support global humanitarian efforts, according to NRO.
Christopher Scolese, director of NRO and a 2022 Wash100 awardee, said Delta IV Heavy has played a key role in NRO’s history by helping the agency develop an architecture for space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
“As our agency and the aerospace industry continue to innovate and evolve, we will explore new vehicles for launching payloads even more efficiently and effectively, with even greater capacity, agility, speed, and resilience. We are excited about the new technologies and partnerships that will define our next chapter,” added Scolese.
NRO said it has two remaining launches with ULA using the company’s Delta IV Heavy rocket under a contract with Space Systems Command’s Assured Access to Space organization. These two missions are expected to lift off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida in 2023 and 2024.