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Nations
United States of America
United States of America
Agencies
ULA
ULA
National Reconnaissance Office - NRO
National Reconnaissance Office - NRO
Space Force
Space Force
Date: March 2023
Time: Not Yet Released
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This goes

to space

Silentbarker (NROL-107)

This is a classified payload for the United States Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office. The mission involves new capabilities in space situational awareness and satellite threat detection.

On this

rocket

Atlas V - 551

This is the workhorse of United Launch Alliance's rocket fleet: Atlas V

A mix of Russian and American technology, Atlas V uses the Russian RD-180 engine on its first stage. It is one of the most versatile rockets in the world with 20 possible configurations, though only 10 have flown.

Developed in the mid- to late-1990s, it is the fifth and last version of the veteran Atlas rocket, which began flying in 1957.

Lockheed Martin designed and built Atlas V as part of the U.S. government's 1994 plan to create an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program for national security missions.

The two companies with rockets in this program -- Lockheed Martin with Atlas V and Boeing with Delta IV -- merged in 2006, creating an effective U.S. market monopoly with United Launch Alliance.

Pricing of the Atlas V has varied greatly over the years, with a basic Atlas V 401 (no boosters and a single-engine second stage) costing anywhere from the high-$90 millions to $163 million USD in the 2000s and early 2010s.

Sweeping price reductions have occurred since SpaceX began directly competing in the 2010s.

While not the cheapest rocket on the market, the Atlas V's safety and success record are unparalleled -- with a 100% mission success rating.

It will be slowly replaced with the Vulcan rocket over the course of several years in the 2020s.

Atlas V 551

The Atlas V 551 variant uses a five-meter payload fairing (5), five side-mounted solid rocket boosters (5), and a single engine Centaur upper stage (1).

This variant's most notable mission came in January 2006 when it launched the New Horizons probe to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.

Image: John Kraus for Supercluster

From this

launch site

SLC-41 - Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, FL, USA
April 1, 2023

Space Launch Complex-41 is the east-coast home of United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket.

The pad hosted its first launch on December 21st, 1965 and is currently being upgraded to serve ULA's Vulcan rocket no earlier than 2022.

Vulcan and Atlas V will share the pad for several years before the Atlas is retired.

From the 1960s to the 1990s, SLC-41 was used for the U.S. Air Force’s Titan III and Titan IV rockets.

It has been the launch site of many notable missions:

  • the Helios probes to study the Sun
  • the Viking missions to Mars
  • the Voyager interstellar probes
  • the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
  • New Horizon to Pluto and Kuiper Belt
  • Juno to Jupiter.

The pad will soon start launching humans on Boeing's Starliner capsule beginning no earlier than 2022.

Located on Florida’s east coast, Cape Canaveral is ideally located to allow access to a wide variety of space destinations that can be reached while safely launching over the open Atlantic Ocean so as not to endanger anyone on the ground.

The Cape currently supports the launch of four different rocket families: Atlas V, Delta IV, Falcon 9, and Minotaur.

Launches of Vulcan from ULA and New Glenn from Blue Origin are set to begin no earlier than 2022 with current schedules.

NASA's Kennedy Space Center, which occupies neighboring Merritt Island, and Cape Canaveral are often confused with each other or referred to as a single place.

They are in fact separate government installations but united as a single “Eastern Range” for launch operations.

Over its history, the spaceport has held the following names:

  • Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (1949-1963)
  • Cape Kennedy Air Force Station (1963-1973)
  • Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (1973-2020)
  • Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (2020-present)

Photo: An Atlas V launches the Perseverance rover to Mars, July 2020. Credit: John Kraus

Here's where to view Silentbarker (NROL-107)

Viewing Sites
  • Alan Shepard Park
  • A. Max Brewer Parkway Bridge
  • Apollo Saturn V Center / Banana Creek
  • Cherie Down Park
  • Cocoa Beach Pier
  • Exploration Tower
  • Jetty Park
  • Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
  • LC-39 Observation Gantry
  • Lori Wilson Park
  • Playalinda Beach
  • Rotary Riverfront Park
  • Sand Point Park
  • Sidney Fischer Park
  • Spaceview Park

Space is for everyone. Here’s a link to share the launch with your friends.