New tentacle for blind octopus? – Next NROL-45 mission already on 10th February 2016


National reconnaissance office planned launch a satellite in the mission NROL-45 with United Launch Alliance DELTA IV Medium+ (5,2) from launch site SLC-6 in Vandenberg.

We do not have to wait long for next launch for National reconnaissance office. As usual payload is highly classified but according to some sources this time Topaz-4 satellite will be launched. Topaz is series of satellites providing data for Future Imagery Architecture (FIA). FIA is based on two types of observation satellites: FIA-R and FIA-O. Topaz-4 is one of FIA-R type and will gather information using radar. Main part of system will be FIA-O satellites with electro-optical sensors onboard. FIA program was started in 1999 with signing contract with Boeing for manufacturing FIA-R and FIA-O satellites. In 2005, after spending around $10 billion, NRO terminated FIA-O satellites phase; later, in September 2005 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and National Intelligence Director John D. Negroponte decided about breaking contract with Boeing due delays and cost overruns. Cooperation in designing and manufacturing FIA-O satellites was established with Lockheed Martin (another Boeing failure after losing contract for GPS Block-IIIA satellites). To point how important was and how much hope Boeing put in FIA show two facts: whole phase 1 of program was valued for around $20 billion and $25 billion and over 5000 Boeing employees and subcontractors worked on this project in 2005.

Delta IV was Boeing's contribution in United Launch Alliance. Designed for EELV project was built to meet the demands of U.S. military - first launches were government contracts. Maybe due this fact its launch costs are higher than its main competitor, Atlas V rocket. Delta IV was designed as a two stages rocket. First stage is powered by one engine fueled with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, which is quite unusual solution compared to, for example Atlas V (unique construction and mentioned above costs of launch, were maybe reasons of modest success of Delta IV on commercial market). It’s one engine is RS-68 with thrust at 3140 kN. Second stage is equipped with one RL10-B-2 engine (thrust at 110 kN) fueled with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Delta IV Medium+ (5,2) has 5 m payload fairing and slightly bigger hydrogen tank (5 m instead 4 m) and larger oxygen tank. Interstage between first and second stage is also different. Instead tapering (utilized in smaller versions of Delta IV), cylindrical with diameter at 5 m is used. Medium+ is offering payload for GTO at 5072 kg. Length depending on version is 63-72 m and weight differs from 249,500 kg to 733,400 kg. United Launch Alliance announced that Atlas V will replace Delta IV (except Delta IV Heavy) in commercial missions by 2018. Regarding military applications, Delta will still remain available with it's ability to carry on with every Atlas V mission.


ULA Targets 2018 for Delta 4 Phase-out, Seeks Relaxation of RD-180 Ban