Tue. Oct 3rd, 2023
United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 Rocket Successfully Launches National Reconnaissance Office Satellites

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket was successfully launched from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Sunday. The rocket carried multiple National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellites, known as “Silent Barker,” into space. This mission aims to monitor the behavior of potential enemy spacecraft in geosynchronous orbit.

The NROL-107 payload consists of satellites designed to operate 22,300 miles above the equator in geosynchronous orbit. The main objective of this mission is to observe and track activities in this orbital regime on a daily basis. The NRO aims to detect any unexpected or threatening behavior that could pose a risk to important U.S. assets or those of its allies.

The Atlas 5 rocket, powered by a Russian-built RD-180 first stage engine and five GEM-63 strap-on solid-fuel boosters, lifted off at 8:47 a.m. ET. This was the 18th and final Atlas 5 NRO flight as United Launch Alliance (ULA) transitions to its new Vulcan rocket.

While the specific details about the Silent Barker satellite’s ascent and orbital parameters remain classified, the nature of geosynchronous orbit is well understood. Satellites in this orbit take 24 hours to complete one orbit, appearing stationary in the sky. This orbit provides excellent coverage for various satellite applications, including reconnaissance, data relay, and weather monitoring.

The NRO rarely discloses information about its payloads, but in the case of Silent Barker, officials wanted to showcase America’s ability to monitor threats in the geosynchronous orbit. The NRO aims to deter potential adversaries by demonstrating its capability to detect and observe any activities in the “geo belt.”

Sunday’s launch is the first of at least two planned missions under the Silent Barker program. It is expected to enhance the NRO’s understanding of activities in geosynchronous orbit and improve strategic decision-making. The program is set to be fully operational by 2026.