NRO Awards ULA Contract for Delta IV Heavy Launch

Parker Solar Probe will launch on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The mission requires such a powerful launch vehicle – despite the spacecraft’s relatively small size – because of the energy needed to achieve Parker Solar Probe’s Sun-grazing orbit. (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman)

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — ULA has announced that the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has awarded the company a contract for a satellite launch aboard the Delta IV Heavy rocket.
“We are honored the NRO selected ULA’s Delta IV Heavy rocket for this important national security mission. ULA remains the only launch vehicle provider capable of launching to all the current reference missions to meet the needs of the national security market. We look forward to continuing to provide reliable, on-time launch services as we transform our company to make access to space more affordable,” ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno said in a press release.

Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

  • Michael Halpern

    Well that thing is already getting “launch assurance” money, and it IS a VI rocket.

  • WhoAmI

    > ULA remains the only launch vehicle provider capable of launching to all the current reference missions to meet the needs of the national security market.

    What does “to all the current reference missions” mean exactly? How does it differ from what SpaceX can provide?

  • Zed_WEASEL

    VI = vertical integration of payload. Almost all spook payloads requires VI currently.

    One of the reference mission is direct injection to GEO. Which is done by Atlas V 551 and the Delta IV Heavy now with vertical payload integration. Right now SpaceX does not offer vertical payload integration.

  • ThomasLMatula

    It’s OK as long as your payload is small enough to fit on either one.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    “Almost all spook payloads requires VI currently.”
    Why is this?

  • Arthur Hamilton

    Is this launch a part of the block buy that the NRO/DOD previously awarded ULA?

  • duheagle

    Most DoD payloads, in fact, do not require vertical integration. The ones that do seem to be only the big Keyhole sats for NRO.

  • Zed_WEASEL

    Spook (NRO) =/= DoD

    There are few DoD/NRO payloads not based on commercial comsat spacecraft bus designs that doesn’t required VI.

    One of the primary reason why DoD/NRO payloads required VI is that the used of launchers with solid boosters means the launcher have to be stacked vertically.

    The Atlas V, Delta II & Delta IV all have their payloads vertically integrated. IIRC VI is an EELV program requirement.