Delta IV NROL-71

Live Webcast


Live Status

Jan. 18 -- LRR completed

The Launch Readiness Review at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California today culminated with officials giving a unanimous “go” for liftoff of the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket on the NROL-71 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office on Saturday.

The LRR, led by Lou Mangieri, ULA’s NROL-71 launch director, assessed all aspects of mission readiness, discussed the status of pre-flight processing work, heard technical overviews of the countdown and flight, and previewed the weather forecast.

At the conclusion of the meeting, senior leaders were polled and then signed the Launch Readiness Certificate.

The launch is scheduled for 11:05 a.m. PST (2:05 p.m. EST; 1905 UTC).

”We are proud to launch this critical payload in support of our nation’s national security mission,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. “As the nation’s premiere launch provider, the teams have worked diligently to ensure continued mission success, delivering our customer’s payloads to the precise orbits requested.”

Weather forecasters from the Air Force’s 30th Weather Squadron predict a 70 percent chance of favorable conditions for launch. The outlook includes a few high-level clouds, northerly winds of 12 to 18 knots and a temperature near 60 degrees F. The only concern for a launch weather rule violation will be winds.

United Launch Alliance will provide complete live coverage of Saturday’s countdown in this blog starting at 2:15 a.m. PST (5:15 a.m. EST; 1015 UTC). Our Live Launch Updates Blog brings you official and timely information during the Delta IV Heavy rocket’s countdown with automatically-refreshing updates.

Our live video webcast also can be viewed on this page starting from L-20 minutes at 10:45 a.m. PST (1:45 p.m. EST; 1845 UTC).

At the request of our customer, live mission coverage will conclude after confirmation of payload fairing jettison, which is scheduled to occur about six minutes after liftoff.

RocketStars: Lou Mangieri

Throughout our countdown today, we are highlighting key individuals who are working this Delta IV Heavy rocket launch for the National Reconnaissance Office.

Next up is Lou Mangieri, the United Launch Alliance launch director for NROL-71. He oversees the readiness of the launch vehicle to perform the mission.

“The LD is responsible to ensure the launch vehicle, spacecraft and range assets all support the T-0. He does this working with the launch conductor (launch vehicle), range coordinator (range assets) and the mission director (spacecraft),” he says.

LOU

Mangieri was born in Jersey City, New Jersey and received a bachelor of science in aeronautical engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a master’s in space technology from Florida Institute of Technology.

“I began working for General Dynamics right out of college at Complex 36 on the Atlas program. General Dynamics brought me out for an interview during the launch of AC-56/Intelsat 501. After the launch, I told them I would accept any offer they would present. I was hooked!”

That launch in 1981 set Mangieri on a path as he rose through the ranks and obtained the role of launch director. He has served in this critical position for 44 missions.

”My first mission as LD was on Intelsat 14 on Nov. 23, 2009. It was an Atlas V 431 configuration. Since then I have sat as LD on 29 Atlas V and 15 Delta IV missions for a total of 44 missions.”

”The most rewarding aspect of being the Launch Director is knowing that I am a small part of a very dedicated and talented launch team working together to ensure we safely deliver our customer’s spacecraft on orbit.”

RocketStars: Dillon Rice

Throughout our countdown today, we are highlighting key individuals who are working this Delta IV Heavy rocket launch for the National Reconnaissance Office.

Next up is Dillon Rice, the United Launch Alliance launch conductor for NROL-71. The launch conductor orchestrates the countdown procedures from the Remote Launch Control Center, located about 11 miles from the pad.

” The launch conductor directs and manages all of the integrated countdown activities on launch day. The LC releases the final hold at T-4 minutes and has the capability to manually stop the countdown if a problem arises,” he says.

” I became a launch conductor in 2015 and worked as the assistant LC for multiple missions (approximately a dozen) before being the prime LC for a mission. L-71 is my fifth mission as a launch conductor.”

RICE

Rice was born in Jacksonville and grew up in the small town of Callahan, Florida. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in electrical engineering from the University of North Florida and a Master’s Degree in systems engineering from the University of Denver.

”I really enjoy working on cars, but Iately my techie side has me tinkering with home automation stuff.”

His aerospace career began with Boeing in 1999 as an engineer working on the construction of Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 37 for the Delta IV program.

”My first responsibilities involved the installation and checkout of the communications infrastructure. I worked as a comm engineer, a flight operations integrator and a Range coordinator prior to becoming a launch conductor.”

Coming up at L-7 minutes, you will hear Rice on the webcast perform the final pre-launch readiness poll.

”Our customer continues to entrust us with launching the nation’s most precious space-based assets and capabilities, and I remind myself of that constantly. It’s a big deal. I am honored and humbled to be given the opportunity to lead the launch team through the countdown that lofts these assets to space, and I am very proud of my small contribution to keeping our war-fighters safe and supporting the cause of peace and freedom around the world.”

RocketStars: John Myers

Throughout our countdown today, we are highlighting key individuals who are working this Delta IV Heavy rocket launch for the National Reconnaissance Office.

Next up is John Myers, the United Launch Alliance anomaly chief for NROL-71. This is position in the launch control room that directs engineering teams who resolve technical issues that arise in the countdown.

”The primary responsibility of the AC is to lead the various technical team members towards a productive solution for any technical or operational engineering issue that surfaces during the launch count. Good communication and an established process are really the keys. That said, we always hope for no issues, so the only thing I actually have to say during the count is ‘Ready’ and ‘Go,’” he said.

MYERS

Myers grew up outside Chicago and attended Northwestern University to major in chemical engineering. He obtained a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering while working here at Vandenberg. His hobbies include playing tennis and racquetball, watching pro hockey, playing cards and brewing beer.

”I got my start in aerospace when I caught a lucky break in 1983, and got a job at Vandenberg to work on what was then planned to be the west coast space shuttle launch site, SLC-6. That obviously didn’t work out as planned for the space shuttle, but it worked out great for me. Starting with that first position, I have had the good fortune to help build, activate and work on multiple launch pads that have launched many different launch vehicles, ranging from Titan 34D to Delta II to Atlas V to Delta IV Heavy."

Myers become the anomaly chief for West Coast launches not long after United Launch Alliance was formed in 2006.

”As is the case for all of our console positions, I trained under more experienced mentors (also Launch Ops chief engineers) until I was ready to go solo. I have supported approximately 25 launches in this role, either as primary or backup AC.”

Asked what preparation goes into getting ready to be the anomaly chief on launch day, Myers noted that each mission and vehicle have some common characteristics, as well as some unique aspects.

”I work closely with the Launch Ops team and Denver Vehicle Systems Engineer to ensure all open technical issues encountered during mission processing are either closed or very well understood from a risk standpoint. We always try to enter the launch count with minimal risk, or have a plan to mitigate any risk that surfaces, and there is a specific process we all follow to do that. We also practice our anomaly resolution process during Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR), Mission Dress Rehearsal (MDR) and other rehearsal exercises. Knowing that we have a well-prepared and experienced launch team makes the job that much easier on day of launch.”

Today’s launch will be Myers’ final one before retirement from ULA.

“I learned so many interesting aspects of this business, working on payloads, launch vehicles and ground systems. Getting exposure to all the engineering disciplines has really afforded me the opportunity to have a much more system-oriented view of what we do, so I have definitely enjoyed that.

”Some of my favorite memories include the recently retired Delta II, particularly when we launched one mission every month for a year at SLC-2 during the Iridium campaign in the late 90’s. Having the opportunity to help build and activate SLC-6 (twice), and then launch the first West Coast Delta IV Medium, and then to be able to do it again for the first West Coast Delta IV Heavy – that will always be something special to me. I’m really pleased that my last launch here will be supporting one of our most important customers with this great launch vehicle, and with the great launch team we have at ULA. I will always remember it.

”Finally, in looking back at my 35 years at Vandenberg, I can say it’s been an a real honor to work with so many dedicated professionals that come to work each day for much more than a paycheck. That is not always so easy to find in such a difficult and unforgiving business, one that requires so much dedication and so little room for error.”

RocketStars: Shannon Curtis

Throughout our countdown today, we will be highlighting key individuals who are working this Delta IV Heavy rocket launch for the National Reconnaissance Office.

First up is Shannon Curtis, the United Launch Alliance stand engineer at Space Launch Complex 6 for NROL-71. The stand engineer is the launch control room’s main point person at the launch pad to direct the execution of steps and procedures during the early hours of the countdown.

"The stand engineer’s primary responsibilities include securing the pad before launch," she said. "They also act as the communication link between the launch conductor and what is happening on the pad. This means providing updates from the start of MST roll all the way to final pad clear."

CURTIS

Curtis was born and raised in Littleton, Colorado and went to college at the Milwaukee School of Engineering where she pursued a degree in industrial engineering and pitched for the school’s softball team. Outside of work, she enjoys traveling, hiking, kayaking and golf.

"I started at ULA as an intern in the Delta IV mechanical engineering group. After graduating from college in May 2017, I hired on as a systems test engineer in the same group I interned in. I have had the opportunity over the past year and a half to work on all five ULA launch pads, doing a variety of work on Delta and Atlas vehicles."

Besides working countdowns, Curtis is involved in critical operations to prepare the rockets for flight.

"I take part in different lift and mate operations for the Delta IV vehicles. I lead technicians in installing flight hardware on all parts of the rocket," she said.

Later today, she will verify the completion of hands-on work at the launch pad and receive the instruction from the launch conductor for all personnel to clear the complex.

"When you're the stand engineer, you, safety and security are the last people to leave. We complete a final count to ensure everyone has left and then we flip the lights to flashing red. I head for the fall back area and watch the launch from SLC-3 at Vandenberg. I am about as close to the launch as it is safe to be," she said.

"Launch day is always the most exciting day. We spend months processing the vehicle and it’s all gone in a couple minutes. It's rewarding being one of the last people to see it in person and up close. I like knowing that I took part in readying the vehicle for its departure."

2:15 a.m. PST (5:15 a.m. EST; 1015 UTC)

From Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, this is Delta Launch Control at T-minus 8 hours and holding.

The countdown activities are about to begin for today’s liftoff of the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket on the NROL-71 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office.

Launch is scheduled for 11:05 a.m. PST (2:05 p.m. EST; 1905 UTC) from Space Launch Complex 6 on the southern end of Vandenberg.

The countdown will start at 2:35 a.m. PST from the T-minus 8 hour mark. Two pre-planned, 15-minute built-in holds scheduled in the count. One pause is reserved prior to fueling at T-minus 4 hours, 15 minutes, the other occurs prior to the terminal count at T-minus 4 minutes.

But the first order of business this morning is retracting the Mobile Service Tower away from the rocket and into its launch position. A weather briefing for tower roll was just completed, and conditions are verified acceptable for the move as well as the rest of the day while the vehicle stands exposed on the pad. ULA Launch Director Lou Mangieri then gave the official “go” to the launch team for rollback of the gantry.

2:35 a.m. PST (5:35 a.m. EST; 1035 UTC) -- Countdown begins

Countdown clocks have been initiated at Vandenberg for today’s Delta IV Heavy launch. We are just eight-and-a-half hours away from liftoff of the triple-core rocket on a vital mission for U.S. national security.

The application of power to the avionics aboard the Delta IV Heavy rocket is beginning at the start of the countdown. The equipment will be powered up for launch day testing and final preparations for fueling operations.

For launch today at 11:05 a.m. PST, Air Force meteorologists are predicting a few high clouds, good visibility, northerly winds of 12-18 knots and a temperature near 60 degrees F.

Overall, there is a 70 percent chance of favorable launch weather, with winds the only concern.

3:18 a.m. EST (6:18 a.m. EST; 1118 UTC)

The Delta IV Heavy rocket has been powered up for its launch on NROL-71.

3:36 a.m. EST (6:36 a.m. EST; 1136 UTC)

Guidance system testing is getting started at this point in the countdown as we continue to press ahead toward a liftoff at 11:05 a.m. PST (2:05 p.m. EST; 1905 UTC).

3:55 a.m. PST (6:55 a.m. EST; 1155 UTC)

Retraction of the Mobile Service Tower has begun at Space Launch Complex 6. First motion occurred at 3:54 a.m. PST (6:54 a.m. EST; 1154 UTC).

The tower was raised several inches to allow an undercarriage transport system to move the gantry to its launch position east of the rocket.

4:06 a.m. PST (7:06 a.m. EST; 1206 UTC)

The MST has moved 25 feet clear of the launch vehicle as the roll continues. The first part of retraction moves at a snail’s pace to ensure proper clearance of gantry structures with the vehicle. Once clear, the speed will increase.

4:10 a.m. PST (7:10 a.m. EST; 1210 UTC)

roll1_0119

Photo by United Launch Alliance

4:15 a.m. PST (7:15 a.m. EST; 1215 UTC)

Space Launch Complex 6 is the West Coast home of the Delta IV rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. “Slick Six” was constructed by the Air Force in the 1960s for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program and modified in the 1980s to be a polar launch site for the space shuttle. Both projects were cancelled before the site hosted a launch of either project. It was briefly used in the 1990s for Lockheed Martin’s small Athena rocket.

The pad was rejuvenated in an extensive overhaul to support the Delta IV starting in 2000. The launch table was constructed, a hydraulic erector system installed, the Fixed Umbilical Tower modified and swing arms added, the Mobile Service Tower was retrofitted and a nearby horizontal processing hangar built.

NROL-71 will be the 12th launch from this complex and the 8th by a Delta IV.

4:30 a.m. PST (7:30 a.m. EST; 1230 UTC)

The flight control operational test has been conducted on the Delta IV Heavy rocket. This test is known as flight slews, which will perform gimbal checks of the rocket engine nozzles on the vehicle, in a state prior to cryogenic fueling.

4:40 a.m. PST (7:40 a.m. EST; 1240 UTC)

This is Delta Launch Control at T-minus 5 hours, 55 minutes (L-6 hours 25 minutes) and counting. The mobile gantry at Space Launch Complex 6 has reached its park position, revealing the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket for the NROL-71 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office today.

The MST is a 32-story structure that weighs 13 million pounds. It is a critical part of the launch complex, proving the primary access and weather protection to the rocket during its stay on the launch pad, and its overhead crane system serves a vital role in vertical integration of payloads onto Delta IV rockets.

Rollback of the MST signals a major milestone early in launch day operations. Configuring launch pad systems and securing equipment will be completed over the next couple of hours before all personnel clear the site for fueling.

Activities remain on schedule for a liftoff at 11:05 a.m. PST (2:05 p.m. EST; 1905 UTC).

5:00 a.m. PST (8:00 p.m. EST; 1300 UTC)

Throughout our countdown today, we will be highlighting key individuals who are working this Delta IV Heavy rocket launch for the National Reconnaissance Office.

First up is Dillon Beaver, the United Launch Alliance pad safety engineer at Space Launch Complex 6 for NROL-71. This job ensures the overall safety of personnel at the pad during pre-flight activities.

”The primary responsibilities of the pad safety engineer during launch day is to oversee the safety of everyone on the pad, cordon off hazardous operational areas as they commence throughout the countdown, and coordinate with range safety and security to verify all areas within the explosive clear zone have been evacuated prior to launch,” he says.

Dillon_Beaver

Beaver was born in Joplin, Missouri and received a degree in environmental health and safety management from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah Oklahoma. He began his career aerospace as a pad safety engineer working on a Delta IV Heavy launch from Cape Canaveral in 2016.

When not working, Beaver enjoys hunting, fishing, hanging out with friends and riding his Harley.

”The most rewarding aspect of being a Pad Safety Engineer is knowing that everyone goes home safely to their families following a successful launch.”

5:14 a.m. PST (8:14 a.m. EST; 1314 UTC)

This is Delta Launch Control at T-minus 5 hours, 21 minutes (L-5 hours, 51 minutes) and counting.

The initiation of gaseous nitrogen flow to the launch vehicle has started. This changes the environmental control systems to supply conditioned nitrogen gas rather than air to the internal compartments of the Delta IV Heavy rocket and the payload fairing in preparation for the transfer of cryogenic propellants and in-flight environments.

We are tracking no issues this evening. An update from the Air Force launch weather officer is coming up in about an hour.

5:35 a.m. PST (8:35 a.m. EST; 1335 UTC)

The countdown is being orchestrated from the Remote Launch Control Center, located about 11 miles from the pad, where ULA Launch Conductor Dillon Rice and his team execute the countdown sequence for the Delta IV Heavy rocket.

Down the hall in the Mission Director’s Center, senior managers, including ULA Launch Director Lou Mangieri and NRO Mission Director Col. Matthew Skeen, provide guidance to the team throughout today’s operation.

5:46 a.m. PST (8:46 a.m. EST; 1346 UTC)

The launch pad crew is finishing up its hands-on work to ready Space Launch Complex 6 for today’s mission, and the launch conductor has given the instruction for personnel to begin clearing the site in advance of fueling operations. Liftoff remains scheduled for just over five hours from now.

6:00 a.m. PST (9:00 a.m. EST; 1400 UTC)

Pre-fueling tests are underway to verify the proper functions of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen valves on all stages of the launch vehicle.

6:10 a.m. PST (9:10 a.m. EST; 1410 UTC) – Weather 70% GO

This is Delta Launch Control at T-minus 4 hours, 25 minutes (L-4 hours, 55 minutes) and counting. In the pre-fueling weather briefing, conditions at Vandenberg are acceptable for proceeding into cryogenic tanking operations at Space Launch Complex 6.

Lt. Daniel Smith, the launch weather office from the Air Force's 30th Weather Squadron, also reports that the weather outlook remains favorable for the flight of Delta IV Heavy and NROL-71 this morning. The forecast calls for a 70 percent chance of allowable liftoff conditions, with just high cirrus clouds, good visibility, northerly winds of 12 to 18 knots and a temperature near 60 degrees F.

The only concern will be wind gusts.

6:20 a.m. PST (9:20 a.m. EST; 1420 UTC) -- Countdown holding

This is Delta Launch Control at T-minus 4 hours, 15 minutes and holding. The countdown has entered the first of two planned, built-in holds that are scheduled in today’s timeline. Each is 15-minute blocks of time that gives the countdown some margin to resolve issues or catch up on work could be running behind.

This particular hold serves as a margin before fueling operations begin. At the present time, however, all activities are on schedule and no significant problems are being addressed by the launch team.

The final hold occurs at T-minus 4 minutes.

6:25 a.m. PST (9:25 a.m. EST; 1425 UTC)

The call to stations for cryogenic tanking has been announced. A readiness poll will be conducted in five minutes.

6:33 a.m. PST (9:33 a.m. EST; 1433 UTC) – GO for fueling

A readiness poll of the launch team by Launch Conductor Dillon Rice, with concurrence of ULA Launch Director Lou Mangieri has authorized cryogenic tanking operations to begin as the countdown continues this morning. The Delta IV Heavy rocket will be loaded with approximately 465,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen over the next couple of hours.

6:35 a.m. PST (9:35 a.m. EST; 1435 UTC) -- Countdown resumes

This is Delta Launch Control at T-minus 4 hours, 15 minutes and counting. The next phase of today’s launch countdown has been initiated on schedule as we continue to target 11:05 a.m. PST (2:05 p.m. EST; 1905 UTC) for liftoff of the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket on NROL-71.

Preparatory steps for fueling are being kicked off, including liquid hydrogen storage tank pressurization and charging the helium bottles on the three common booster cores and second stage.

6:50 a.m. PST (9:50 a.m. EST; 1450 UTC)

Watch a preview video of what to expect during liftoff of the Delta IV Heavy rocket on NROL-71 tonight.

6:56 a.m. PST (9:56 a.m. EST; 1456 UTC) – Chilldown begins

A "go" has been given to start the cold gas chilldown conditioning of the liquid hydrogen systems on the three common booster cores. This is the precursor step before filling the stages with propellant.

The three common booster cores will be loaded with 330,000 gallons of super-cold liquid hydrogen that is chilled to minus-423 degrees Fahrenheit. The liquid hydrogen, along with the liquid oxygen to be loaded shortly as well, will be consumed by the three RS-68A main engines during the first minutes of the launch to exit Earth’s atmosphere.

The port and starboard boosters will fire at full throttle for nearly four minutes and then separate. The center booster burns at partial thrust for most of that time in a fuel-conservation mode until the outer cores jettison, then its RS-68A engine revs up to full throttle for another minute-and-a-half of propulsion before staging.

7:15 a.m. PST (10:15 a.m. EST; 1515 UTC) – CBC LH2 loading begins

This is Delta Launch Control at T-minus 3 hours, 35 minutes and counting. The cold gas chilldown conditioning of the common booster cores’ liquid hydrogen system has been accomplished, clearing the way to begin propellant loading in "slow-fill" mode. That will transition to "fast-fill" after a small portion of the tanks are loaded.

7:16 a.m. PST (10:16 a.m. EST; 1516 UTC)

The fueling specialist in the launch control room confirms that liquid hydrogen is flowing into the Delta IV Heavy rocket at the Space Launch Complex 6 pad.

7:20 a.m. PST (10:20 a.m. EST; 1520 UTC)

See our Flickr page for a collection of beautiful photos of the Delta IV Heavy rocket taken by United Launch Alliance during rollback of the Mobile Service Tower earlier today.

divh_nrol71_r4_8

7:26 a.m. PST (10:26 a.m. EST; 1526 UTC) – CBC LOX chilldown

This is Delta Launch Control at T-minus 3 hours, 24 minutes (L-3 hours, 39 minutes) and counting. The thermal condition process, known as chilldown, has started for the liquid oxygen systems on Delta IV Heavy rocket's three common booster cores. This preps the tanks and plumbing to guard against shock when the super-cold oxidizer begins flowing into the rocket stages.

7:28 a.m. PST (10:28 a.m. EST; 1528 UTC)

The common booster cores liquid hydrogen loading operation is switching from "slow-fill" to "fast-fill" mode as planned.

The cryogenics are fed to the three CBCs via umbilicals from the tail service masts on the launch table.

7:31 a.m. PST (10:31 a.m. EST; 1531 UTC)

sunrise_0119

Photo by United Launch Alliance

7:38 a.m. PST (10:38 a.m. EST; 1538 UTC) – CBC LOX loading begins

This is Delta Launch Control at T-minus 3 hours, 12 minutes and counting. The liquid oxygen chilldown is complete for the three booster cores, allowing 120,000 gallons of super-cold LOX to begin transferring into the rocket for today’s launch.

7:47 a.m. PST (10:47 a.m. EST; 1547 UTC) – DCSS LH2 chilldown

The “go” has been given to start the chilldown conditioning of the Delta Cryogenic Second Stage liquid hydrogen system in preparation for filling that tank.

7:55 a.m. PST (10:55 a.m. EST; 1555 UTC)

The common booster core liquid oxygen tanking operation is switching from "slow-fill" to "fast-fill" mode. The LOX is chilled to minus-298 degrees F.

8:01 a.m. PST (11:01 a.m. EST; 1601 UTC) – DCSS LOX chilldown

This is Delta Launch Control at T-minus 2 hours, 49 minutes and counting. Approval has been given to the operators at the fueling console here in the Remote Launch Control Center to begin the second stage liquid oxygen chilldown procedures.

8:05 a.m. PST (11:05 a.m. EST; 1605 UTC) – DCSS LH2 loading begins

The next step in fuel operations is getting underway by loading 10,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen into the Delta Cryogenic Second Stage following completion of that system’s chilldown.

The stage receives its fuel from the launch pad’s upper swing arm that extends from the Fixed Umbilical Tower to the Delta IV Heavy rocket.

8:12 a.m. PST (11:12 a.m. EST; 1612 UTC) – DCSS LOX loading begins

Chilldown of the second stage liquid oxygen system is complete, and the vehicle is ready to begin receiving 4,500 gallons of LOX for launch. This is the last of the rocket's cryogenic tanks to be filled in today's countdown.

8:17 a.m. PST (11:17 a.m. EST; 1617 UTC)

This is Delta Launch Control. We have finished the “fast-fill” loading mode for the three common booster core liquid hydrogen tanks, and the post-fueling checks and valve tests are underway before topping commences.

8:20 a.m. PST (11:20 a.m. EST; 1620 UTC)

Throughout our countdown today, we are highlighting key individuals who are working this Delta IV Heavy rocket launch for the National Reconnaissance Office.

Next up is Kara Parks, the United Launch Alliance LOX2 console operator in the launch control center for NROL-71. This is position that oversees the Delta Cryogenic Second Stage liquid oxygen tank.

”LOX2 is responsible for filling the liquid oxygen tank on the second stage and addressing any associated anomalies with the second stage liquid oxygen system. As a ULA console operator, I have to be disciplined, competent, confident, tough, and vigilant. I am responsible for the success of my system and as a team we are responsible for the success of the rocket. Our teamwork is the greatest strength of the NROL-71 launch team As LOX2, I work with nearly every other propulsion position and require flawless work from the electrical and software teams to achieve successful second stage fill,” Parks said.

kara_parks

Parks was born in Jarrettsville, Maryland and earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Alabama in 2017. She is currently working on a master’s in space systems engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

She began her career in aerospace at ULA as an intern in 2016, has worked on six missions and became LOX2 on the Parker Solar Probe launch last summer on the most recent Delta IV Heavy.

“I am blessed to have been an operator during the launch of such an historical and meaningful mission,” she said.

Parks is passionate about ULA’s mission and serves as the employee appreciation chair, intern coordinator, leader of NEBULA, the company’s new hire organization at Cape Canaveral and participates in events like the Space Coast Games.

”I enjoy running, longboarding, hiking, flag football, surfing, field hockey and beach volleyball. I’m an avid griller, and love hosting parties at my home. I am skilled at making stained glass art and like to build glass projects in my garage. I love technology, so you can also find me experimenting with building video games and messing with virtual and augmented reality,” she said.

8:31 a.m. PST (11:31 a.m. EST; 1631 UTC)

Liquid oxygen loading to the three common booster cores to 96 percent has finished. Topping will be completed shortly.

9:05 a.m. PST (12:05 p.m. EST; 1705 UTC)

The NROL-71 patch is emblazoned on the Delta IV Heavy rocket’s payload fairing. Here’s the story behind the art:

L-71_FBTwitter_logobreakdown-01

9:05 a.m. PST (12:05 p.m. EST; 1705 UTC)

The NROL-71 patch is emblazoned on the Delta IV Heavy rocket’s payload fairing. Here’s the story behind the art:

9:14 a.m. PST (12:14 p.m. EST; 1714 UTC)

The Delta Cryogenic Second Stage has been loaded with its liquid hydrogen fuel supply. The propellant, along with liquid oxygen that continues to be filled, will be consumed by the stage’s RL10B-2 engine.

9:20 a.m. PST (12:20 p.m. EST; 1720 UTC

United Launch Alliance is using its Delta IV Heavy rocket to launch the NROL-71 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office. The NRO is a U.S. government agency responsible for developing, acquiring, launching, and operating America’s intelligence satellites.

The National Reconnaissance Office's systems are critical to national security, U.S. policy makers, and warfighters. These systems provide the foundation for global situational awareness, and address the nation's toughest intelligence challenges. Frequently, NRO systems are the only collectors able to access critical areas of interest, and data from overhead sensors provides unique information and perspectives not available from other sources.

The NRO's key customers and mission partners include: policy makers, the Armed Services, the Intelligence Community, Departments of State, Justice and Treasury, and civil agencies. All of them depend on the unique capabilities NRO systems provide:

  • Monitoring the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
  • Tracking international terrorists, drug traffickers, and criminal organizations
  • Developing highly accurate military targeting data and bomb damage assessments
  • Supporting international peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations
  • Assessing the impact of natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, and fires.

Together with other Defense Department satellites, the NRO systems play a crucial role in providing global communications, precision navigation, early warning of missile launches and potential military aggression, signals intelligence, and near real-time imagery to U.S. forces to support the war on terrorism and other continuing operations.

NRO satellites also support civil customers in response to disaster relief and environmental research. Scientists created a global environment database using NRO imagery to help predict climate change, assess crop production, map habitats of endangered species, track oil spills, and study wetlands. NRO data also forms the basis for products that help depict and assess the devastation in areas affected by natural disasters.

The NRO's innovation also inspired technology in everyday life with contributions to medical imaging, global communications, high-definition television, cellular phones, the global positioning system (GPS), and much more.

With its vigilance from above, the NRO gives America's policymakers, intelligence analysts, warfighters and homeland security specialists the critical information they need to keep America safe, secure, and free.

9:26 a.m. PST (12:26 p.m. EST; 1726 UTC)

Loading of the upper stage liquid oxygen tank was just reported complete, giving us a 1.6-million-pound Delta IV Heavy rocket that is fueled for launch at 11:05 a.m. PST (2:05 p.m. EST; 1905 UTC) today. At T-minus 1 hour, 24 minutes and counting, this is Delta Launch Control.

9:30 a.m. PST (12:30 p.m. EST; 1730 UTC)

The standard post-fueling inspections of the rocket’s outer thermal insulation is underway using launch pad cameras.

9:50 a.m. PST (12:50 p.m. EST; 1750 UTC)

This is Delta Launch Control at T-minus 60 minutes and counting. We will be taking the countdown clock to T-minus 4 minutes before holding there for a pre-planned, 15-minute built-in hold. That is when the status polls by management will be performed to verify all is in readiness for liftoff.

9:51 a.m. PST (12:51 p.m. EST; 1751 UTC)

Jim Zimmerle, ULA chief engineer, explains the previous launch postponements for this Delta IV Heavy mission. Watch the video.

9:55 a.m. PST (12:55 p.m. EST; 1755 UTC)

The launch team is proceeding with flight slews, the next major milestone in the countdown. This is the steering test patterns run on the Delta IV Heavy rocket nozzles to ensure proper gimbaling during the ascent.

10:00 a.m. PST (1:00 p.m. EST; 1800 UTC)

Throughout our countdown today, we are highlighting key individuals who are working this Delta IV Heavy rocket launch for the National Reconnaissance Office.

Next up is Jason Sullivan, the United Launch Alliance flight control console operator in the launch control room for NROL-71. This is position interfaces directly with the rocket and its flight computer throughout the countdown.

Jason_Sullivan

”Flight control is a pretty busy position during a countdown. The first task is applying power to the vehicle, which kicks off at T-minus 8 hours and takes about 45 minutes. Following that, we start our avionics testing, which basically entails exercising every switch that we can on the vehicle, as well as performing some redundancy testing and testing discrete interfaces to the ground via the umbilicals. After the guidance computer (INCA) has been allowed to warm up, we start guidance testing, which takes approximately two-and-a-half hours. After getting the guidance tests started, we perform slewing of both the first and second stage engines. All of this testing completes just prior to the start of the T- minus 4:15 hold,” he said.

”Coming out of the hold, we perform the ECU BIT test, which cycles the hydraulically actuated engine valves on the first stage prior to the start of cryo loading. We then have a relatively quiet few hours until about an hour before T-0, when we perform additional slewing of the engines after cryos have been loaded. We also load the ADDJUST parameter set into INCA, which allows INCA to adjust the vehicle’s trajectory based upon upper level wind speeds measured from a balloon that is released a few hours before launch.”

Sullivan was raised in Santa Maria, California, and studied mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley with an interest in fluid mechanics and heat transfer.

Out of college, he was hired by Lockheed Martin Astronautics.

“ I got hired in August of 1997 and started working in the mechanical group for the Solid Rocket Motor Upgrade (SRMU) unit of the Titan IV program. We were responsible for receiving, processing, integrating, and testing the solid rocket motor segments in Building 398 (right next to SLC-6), and then we would transport and stack the segments onto the pad at SLC-4 prior to the Titan IV core booster being erected. We also supported additional integration work and testing at the pad prior to launch.

”I worked there for three years before leaving to get my master’s degree in mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. After graduating from UCSB, I hired back in with Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale, California, working in the integration and test group on the SBIRS GEO satellite program. When an opportunity opened up in 2008 to transfer down to Vandenberg with ULA to work on the Atlas program, I jumped at the chance to get back to the Central Coast, and I’ve been here ever since.”

Today’s launch will be Sullivan’s first as the primary flight control console operator on Delta IV.

Outside of work, Sullivan spends time with his kids, plays tennis, golf and basketball, and playing guitar.

10:18 a.m. PST (1:18 p.m. EST; 1818 UTC)

This is Delta Launch Control at T-minus 32 minutes and counting. We remain on schedule, headed to the final hold at T-minus 4 minutes, for a launch this morning at 11:05 a.m. PST.

10:25 a.m. PST (1:25 p.m. EST; 1825 UTC)

If you've ever seen a Delta IV Heavy rocket lift off, you may have noticed that it seems to emerge from a cloud of fire. ULA's Tyler Strickland talks with propulsion engineer Kris Kolman to learn more in this video.

10:35 a.m. PST (1:35 p.m. EST; 1835 UTC)

We are 30 minutes away for liftoff time for the Delta IV Heavy rocket and NROL-71 for the National Reconnaissance Office. Standing by for the final weather briefing.

10:36 a.m. PST (1:36 p.m. EST; 1836 UTC

Weather is 40 percent favorable for an on-time launch due to ground winds.

10:42 a.m. PST (1:42 p.m. EST; 1842 UTC)

United Launch Alliance’s live broadcast of today’s launch is about to begin in the embedded stream on this page.

At the request of our customer, today’s live mission coverage will conclude after confirmation of payload fairing jettison, which is scheduled to occur about six minutes after liftoff.

10:46 a.m. PST (1:46 p.m. EST; 1846 UTC) -- Countdown holding

This is Delta Launch Control at T-minus 4 minutes and holding. The countdown has entered the planned 15-minute built-in hold designed to give a bit of margin to deal with any problems. Also during this time, the final readiness polls of the launch team and management members will be performed.

We remain on schedule for a liftoff at 11:05 a.m. PST (2:05 p.m. EST; 1905 UTC) from Space Launch Complex 6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

10:50 a.m. PST (1:50 p.m. EST; 1850 UTC)

Our visibility graphic shows when the Delta IV Heavy rocket will rise into view for spectators across the West Coast this morning.

L71_Visibility_Chart-01

10:53 a.m. PST (1:53 p.m. EST; 1853 UTC)

This is Delta Launch Control at T-minus 4 minutes and holding. The countdown remains on target for liftoff at 11:05 a.m. PST.

10:56 a.m. PST (1:56 p.m. EST; 1856 UTC)

We are 9 minutes away for liftoff time for the Delta IV Heavy rocket and NROL-71 for the National Reconnaissance Office.

This will be 132nd mission for United Launch Alliance and our 28th mission for the NRO. It is the 382nd Delta rocket launch since 1960, the 38th for a Delta IV rocket since 2002 and the 11th Delta IV Heavy.

It is the seventh Delta IV Heavy launch performed the NRO.

10:59 a.m. PST (1:59 p.m. EST; 1859 UTC)

A new target liftoff time will announced momentarily.

11:02 a.m. PST (2:02 p.m. EST; 1902 UTC)

Launch is planned to occur at 11:10 a.m. a.m. PST.

11:04 a.m. PST (2:04 p.m. EST; 1904 UTC) -- GO for launch!

The ULA Launch Director Lou Mangieri has confirmed that the Delta IV Heavy rocket is ready to fly and NRO Mission Director Col. Matthew Skeen has given final permission to launch. That concurrence was made following a readiness poll of the launch team by Launch Conductor Dillon Rice that verified all systems are "go."

11:06 a.m. PST (2:06 p.m. EST; 1906 UTC) -- Countdown resumes

T-minus 4 minutes and counting. The final phase of today’s countdown is underway at Vandenberg to launch the Delta IV Heavy rocket on NROL-71. The countdown clocks have resumed, leading us to a 11:10 a.m. PST liftoff.

Over the next minute, the Delta Cryogenic Second Stage liquid oxygen tank will be secured at flight level, replenishment of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to the three boosters will be secured in preparation to pressurize the tanks for launch and the ground pyrotechnics will be enabled.

11:07 a.m. PST (2:07 p.m. EST; 1907 UTC)

T-minus 2 minutes, 30 seconds. We remain GO for liftoff of the Delta IV Heavy.

The liquid oxygen tanks in the three common booster cores are been confirmed at the proper level and pressure for flight. The liquid hydrogen tanks will achieve this status about one minute from now.

The liquid hydrogen system on the Delta Cryogenic Second Stage will be secured starting at T-minus 80 seconds.

11:08 a.m. PST (2:08 p.m. EST; 1908 UTC)

T-minus 1 minutes, 55 seconds. The launch sequencer has been started. It will perform independent verifications of systems for the rest of the countdown, control the firing of hydrogen burnoff igniters under the engines, detachment of umbilicals from the vehicle and release the rocket from the pad at liftoff.

The Delta IV Heavy rocket has switched from ground-fed power to internal batteries. Shortly, ordnance devices aboard the vehicle will be armed. The flight software on the vehicle will go active at T-minus 80 seconds.

11:09 a.m. PST (2:09 p.m. EST; 1909 UTC)

T-minus 55 seconds and counting. Computers have verified that the three RS-68A main engines are ready for ignition and the Air Force’s Western Range at Vandenberg has confirmed its “green” condition for launch.

Coming up at T-minus 30 seconds, a final status check will be announced on Delta and NROL-71 readiness, followed by the vehicle going inertial, the residual hydrogen burnoff sparklers firing beneath the main engines, the Terminal Countdown Sequencer Rack going active and the staggered ignitions of the main engines starting at T-minus 7 seconds with the starboard booster and T-minus 5 seconds for the center and port boosters. The 12 holddown bolts will fire to release the vehicle for liftoff at T-0 and the swing arms on the launch pad will pull back.

11:10 a.m. PST (2:10 p.m. EST; 1910 UTC) -- LIFTOFF!

Liftoff of the National Reconnaissance Office’s NROL-71 mission as the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket clears the tower!

11:11 a.m. PST (2:11 p.m. EST; 1911 UTC)

T+plus 60 seconds into this U.S. national security launch from the West Coast.

The Delta IV Heavy performed its pitch and yaw maneuvers off the launch pad to achieve the proper heading. The port and starboard cores are firing at full throttle with their RS-68A main engines operating at the maximum power setting of 108.5 percent thrust. The center booster has throttled back its engine to the partial power setting of 54.5 percent thrust for fuel conservation in order to burn longer.

11:11 a.m. PST (2:11 p.m. EST; 1911 UTC)

T+plus 85 seconds. The Delta IV Heavy rocket has broken through the sound barrier to go supersonic and also passed the period of maximum aerodynamic stresses in the lower atmosphere.

11:12 a.m. PST (2:12 p.m. EST; 1912 UTC)

T+plus 2 minutes, 40 seconds. The Delta IV Heavy rocket now weighs only half of what it did at liftoff. The port and starboard boosters remain at full power and the center engine continues in its partial thrust mode as planned. The rocket is consuming nearly 5,000 pounds of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen per second.

11:13 a.m. PST (2:13 p.m. EST; 1913 UTC)

T+plus 3 minutes. Now at Mach 5. Coming up in about a minute, the port and starboard boosters will throttle back and then shut down their RS-68A main engines in preparation for jettison.

11:14 a.m. PST (2:14 p.m. EST; 1914 UTC)

T+plus 4 minutes, 20 seconds. A clean separation of the port and starboard boosters is confirmed, and the center core has throttled up to its full power mode to consume the fuel that has been conserved by burning at lower thrust for the past four minutes. The rocket will nearly double its velocity in this next phase of flight.

11:16 a.m. PST (2:16 p.m. EST; 1916 UTC)

T+plus 6 minutes, 10 seconds. A successful staging and ignition of the Delta Cryogenic Second Stage is confirmed.

The Center core completed its burn and then separated, allowing the RL10B-2 engine to deploy its nozzle and begin its first of two burns during the launch.

Also, the composite fairing that protected the payload during ascent through the atmosphere has been jettisoned now that the rocket has ascended above the edge of space. The Delta IV rocket has shed nearly 95 percent of its liftoff weight.

11:18 a.m. PST (2:18 p.m. EST; 1918 UTC)

At the request of our customer, this will conclude our live coverage of today’s countdown and liftoff of the Delta IV Heavy rocket on NROL-71 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

To recap, the United launch Alliance rocket departed Space Launch Complex 6 at 11:10 a.m. PST on its mission for the National Reconnaissance Office. The outer boosters separated about four minutes into flight, followed by staging and ignition of the second stage two minutes later.

Today’s eight-and-a-half-hour countdown progressed starting at 2:35 a.m. PST under the guidance of ULA Launch Conductor Dillon Rice. Retraction of the Mobile Service Tower began at 3:54 a.m., final configuring of the pad then followed and was cleared of all personnel. The “go” for fueling was given by ULA Launch Director Lou Mangieri at 6:33 a.m. Tanking operations were successfully performed as 465,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen were placed into the rocket’s eight tanks. The clear to launch was given at 11:04 a.m. PST by NRO Mission Director Matthew Skeen, an Air Force colonel who also serves at the director of the NRO’s Office of Space Launch.

11:36 a.m. PST (2:36 p.m. EST; 1936 UTC)

A first look at launch!

divh_nrol71_l1

Photo by United Launch Alliance

United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches NROL-71 in Support of National Security

Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., (Jan. 19, 2019) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying a critical payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) denoted NROL-71 lifted off from Space Launch Complex-6 on Jan. 19 at 11:10 a.m. PST. The mission is in support of our country’s national defense.

“Congratulations to our team and mission partners for successfully delivering this critical asset to support national security missions,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs, “thank you to the entire team for their perseverance, ongoing dedication and focus on 100% mission success.”

The Delta IV Heavy is the nation’s proven heavy lift launch vehicle, delivering high-priority missions for the National Reconnaissance Office, U.S. Air Force and NASA. With its advanced upper stage, the Delta IV Heavy can take more than 14,000 pounds directly to geosynchronous orbit, as well as a wide variety of complex interplanetary trajectories.

The mission launched aboard a Delta IV Heavy, comprised of three common booster cores each powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine producing a combined total of more than 2.1 million pounds of thrust. The second stage was powered by an AR RL10B-2 liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine.

NROL-71 is ULA’s first launch in 2019 and 132nd successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

ULA's next launch is the WGS-10 mission for the U.S. Air Force on a Delta IV rocket. The launch is scheduled for March 13, 2019 from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

With more than a century of combined heritage, ULA is the world’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 130 satellites to orbit that provide Earth observation capabilities, enable global communications, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, and support life-saving technology.

Delta IV Heavy to Launch NROL-71

Rocket: Delta IV Heavy
Mission: NROL-71
Launch Date: Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019
Launch Time: 11:05 a.m. PST
Launch Broadcast: Live commentary will begin at 10:45 a.m. PST
Launch Location: Space Launch Complex 6, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

Mission Information: United Launch Alliance will use the Delta IV Heavy rocket to launch the NROL-71 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office.

Launch Notes: This will be 132nd mission for United Launch Alliance. It is the 382nd Delta launch since 1960, the 38th for a Delta IV rocket since 2002 and the 11th Delta IV Heavy.

Launch Updates: To keep up to speed with updates to the launch countdown, dial the ULA launch hotline at 1-877-852-4321 or join the conversation at www.facebook.com/ulalaunch, twitter.com/ulalaunch and instagram.com/ulalaunch; hashtags #DeltaIV #NROL71

 

Go Delta Go NROL-71!

 

Delta IV NROL-71

The Delta IV rocket

United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV rocket has served the nation’s high-priority U.S. Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office space programs with distinction since entering service in 2002. The vehicle also launched NASA’s Orion capsule on its first orbital test flight and sent the Parker Solar Probe on its journey to become the fastest robot in history while surfing through the sun’s atmosphere. Having flown 37 missions in a variety of configurations ranging from medium-lift to heavy-lifter, the Delta IV continues the legacy of the Delta rocket family that dates to 1960.

NROL-71 will launch aboard a Delta IV Heavy rocket features three hydrogen-fueled common booster cores and a Delta Cryogenic Second Stage. The payload is protected during atmospheric ascent by a composite payload fairing.

Specs

  • Height: 233 feet
  • Weight: 1.6 million pounds
  • Thrust: 2.1 million pounds
  • Fuel: 465,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen

 

Space Launch Complex 6

Space Launch Complex 6, the West Coast home of the Delta IV rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, is a classic launch pad design with a Fixed Umbilical Tower and a Mobile Service Tower. The core stages of the rocket are assembled in the nearby Horizontal Integration Facility, then rolled to the pad for attachment of the payload, final testing and the countdown. The site also features a Mobile Assembly Shelter that provides full enclosure of the rocket from the weather during pre-launch preparations. The MST and the MAS are retracted to unveil the rocket prior liftoff.

SLC 6 was constructed by the U.S. Air Force in the 1960s for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program and modified in the 1980s to be a West Coast launch site for the space shuttle. Both projects were cancelled before the site hosted a launch. It was used briefly in the 1990s for Lockheed Martin’s Athena rocket. The pad was rejuvenated in an extensive overhaul to support the Delta IV starting in 2000. NROL-71 will be the 12th launch from this complex and the 8th by a Delta IV.