United Launch Alliance (ULA, Denver, Colo.), the Boeing/Lockheed Martin space launch partnership, announced the successful launch of a U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellite on Dec. 11 last year. A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carried a classified NRO payload from Cape Canaveral, Fla., into earth orbit, marking the fourth Atlas V evolved expendable launch vehicle (EELV) mission in 2007.
Alliant Techsystems’ (ATK, Minneapolis, Minn.) composites technology supported the launch. Using advanced fiber placement and hand lay-up techniques, ATK produced the 10-ft/3m diameter composite heatshield and baseplate that provide essential protection for the first-stage engine compartment on the launch vehicle. The heatshield and baseplate were fabricated by ATK at its Clearfield, Utah, facility. This is the 12th Atlas V launch vehicle that has been equipped with ATK-built composite structures.
ATK’s composite technologies support the performance of numerous space launch vehicles, including not only the Atlas V, but also the Delta II and Delta IV and a number of military and commercial aircraft programs.
At presstime, ULA officials said an additional satellite launch was scheduled for late December 2007 and would involve a GPS IIR-18 satellite for the U.S. Air Force.