The United States of America’s government is expected to send something to the orbit on the night of September 30. The launch is expected to be secretive though there have been other similar classified launches in the past, there has been great interest in this launch, and few details have been collected on the mission, which is designated NROL-44.
The cargo which will be aboard the NROL-44 is the property of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which is the intelligence chapter that maintains the spy satellites of the nation. The NRO satellites are usually equipped with technology to take high-resolution pictures while reviewing ground sites using radar and watch for missile launches.
Though this launch does not match the profile, the NROL-44 will ferry consignment to the geosynchronous orbit that will have it over a given part of the globe every time. Conventionally, satellites at low orbit tend to circle the globe various times in a day. Therefore, for a satellite to stay at one place relative to the spinning of the earth below, the satellite will need to be at an orbit of 22,00 miles of which GPS satellites orbit. Satellites tasked with taking high-resolution pictures tend to orbit at the same altitude as the International Space Station, which is around 254 miles. This distance is to allow for the satellites to capture all the details in the image.
The satellite is expected to be propelled using a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta four Heavy rocket launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch’s success is not a guarantee as per Space.com, which is the Live Science Site, the initial launch of the NROL-44 was planned for August 29 was aborted 3 seconds to liftoff due to rocket malfunction. The next launch, which was scheduled for September 29, was aborted due to bad weather and hydraulic problems.
With only the SpaceX falcon Heavy being able to light huge mass to space together with the Delta four Heavy rocket, ULA, which is a cooperated operation between Boeing and Lockheed Martin geared to competing for space projects, is phasing out the latter. Though the exact mass which the satellite can haul is not provided, the Delta Four Heavy is estimated to have a capacity of around 14,880lbs, which translates to 6,750 kilograms.
With each successful launch, the NRO issues a cheque of $440 million to ULA, leading to the office only employing the use of the rocket for extreme power-consuming missions. Other rockets cost $110 million per launch though they have much less capacity and can ferry cargo to the geostationary orbit.