Top Secret NRO SpySat Atop ULA Delta IV Heavy Kicks Off Trio of Space Coast Launches Overnight Aug. 27 Concluding Busy August: Photos/Watch Live

Top Secret NRO SpySat Atop ULA Delta IV Heavy Kicks Off Trio of Space Coast Launches Overnight Aug. 27 Concluding Busy August: Photos/Watch Live
ULA Delta IV Heavy ready for liftoff with NROL-44 spysat for NRO from Space Launch Complex-37 as seen from Launch Complex 34 and the Apollo 1 memorial and ‘abandoned in place’ Launch Mount. Launch targeted for 2:12 a.m. ET Aug. 27, 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: Jean Wright/Space UpClose

For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL –  A top secret intelligence gathering spy satellite for the secretive U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) sitting atop a mighty United Launch Alliance (ULA) triple barreled Delta IV Heavy rocket is all set to kick off a trio of Florida Space Coast launches overnight Aug. 27 – concluding a busy August with a tremendous finale of blastoffs including a duo of SpaceX Falcon 9’s for three in just half a weeks’ time;  if all goes well!

And the weather for the first of the trio in the middle of the night Thursday, Aug. 27, namely the ULA Delta IV Heavy carrying the NROL-44 classified intelligence gathering satellite for the US government NRO spy agency is looking very promising at this point.

With less than 12 hours before liftoff the weather odds are 80% GO.

ULA Delta IV Heavy ready for liftoff with NROL-44 spysat for U.S. National Reconnaissance Office from Space Launch Complex-37 as seen from Launch Complex 34 and the Apollo 1 memorial with flame ducts. Launch targeted for 2:12 a.m. ET Aug. 27, 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Liftoff of the 23-story tall triple stick United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket on the NROL-44 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is slated for 2:12 a.m. EDT (0612 GMT) Augh. 27, 2020 from seaside Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Triple stick ULA Delta IV Heavy inside Mobile Service Tower ready for liftoff with NROL-44 spysat for U.S. National Reconnaissance Office from Space Launch Complex-37 as seen from Launch Complex 34 and the Apollo 1 memorial. Launch targeted for 2:12 a.m. ET Aug. 27, 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Three rocket launches from three different launch pads bunched up so close is very rare – and the drama is palpable especially with this being one of the final Delta IV Heavy launches.

Only 5 of this D4H vehicle remain until it is retired forever – to be replaced by ULA’s new Vulcan Centaur rocket.

“It could be a historic week for us,” said 45th Space Wing Commander Brig. Gen Doug Schiess at a media briefing this week.

The other two lauches this week are both SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets provisionally slated for Aug. 28 carrying the Argentinian radar imaging satellite SAOCOM 1B and Aug. 29 carrying the 12th batch of SpaceX Starlink broadband internet satellites.

ULA Delta IV Heavy ready for liftoff with NROL-44 spysat for U.S. National Reconnaissance Office from Space Launch Complex-37 as seen from Launch Complex 34 and the Apollo 1 memorial with flame ducts and launch mount. Launch targeted for 2:12 a.m. ET Aug. 27, 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

But the NRO spysat has top priority on the US military Eastern Range and any delay with force the two SpaceX launches to move to the right.

Enjoy our Space UpClose gallery of images from the team of Ken Kremer and Jean Wright.

Delta IV Heavy rocket launches are rather rare and thus extremely special !

The prior Delta IV Heavy rocket launch from Cape Canaveral involved NASA’s Parker Solar Probe and took place two years ago also in the middle of the night on Aug. 12, 2018.

United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun and dive into the corona, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018, at 3:31 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. From camera at pad. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Check out our earlier Parker Solar Probe articles and photos.

Pastel prelaunch sunset view of United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying NASA’s historic Parker Solar Probe on the eve of Aug. 12, 2018 launch from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

You can watch the launch live at a ULA webcast beginning about 20 minutes before liftoff available at :

www.ulalaunch.com and www.youtube.com/unitedlaunchalliance

The ULA launch webcast begins Thursday, Aug. 27 at 1:52 a.m. (0552 GMT)

The launch time opens at 2:12 a.m. EDT (0612 GMT) Aug. 27. The launch window extends four hours until 6:25 a.m. EDT.

A back up launch window opportunity is available on Friday, Aug. 28.

Virtually nothing is known about the clandestime NROL-44 mission – except that it will fly due East.

Here is a launch visibility map from ULA:

ULA launch visibility graphic shows when the Delta IV Heavy rocket will rise into view for spectators on Thursday morning Aug. 27. Launch time is 2:12 a.m. EDT. Credit: ULA

The two stage triple core Delta IV Heavy rocket stands 235 ft tall (71.6 m).

The first stage is comprised of three Common Core Boosters (CBCs) powered by RS-68A engines fueled by LOX and LH2 that generates a combined 2.1 million pounds of liftoff thrust.

The side booster separate and are jettisoned just prior to 4 minutes after liftoff

The upper stage is a Delta Cryogenic Second Stage (DCSS) powered by a single RL10B-2 engine fueled by LOX and LH2 that generates 24,750 pounds of thrust.

The payload in encapsulated in a metallic trisector 5 m diameter payload fairing that is 19.8 m (65 ft)  long to protect it from the harsh environment and friction moving through the atmosphere. It is jettisoned 6 minutes and 38 seconds after liftoff.

Launch weather forecast for Aug. 27 from the 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron is very good.

Primary concerns:  Cumulus Cloud Rule

“The launch weather forecast for this evening’s Delta IV Heavy countdown and overnight liftoff of NROL-44 remains favorable with an 80 percent chance of acceptable conditions.”

“Launch Weather Officer Will Ulrich says there is only a slight concern for violation of the Cumulus Cloud Rule at the 2:12 a.m. EDT (0612 UTC) launch opportunity.”

“There have been no significant changes to the forecast reasoning. Pockets of drier air embedded within deep easterly flow will bring below normal rain chances through early Thursday, with only a small chance for onshore-moving showers. Conditions look favorable for MST Roll this evening, and the primary concern during the launch window Thursday morning remains the Cumulus Cloud Rule,” the launch weather team says.

The operations forecast includes scattered low clouds and some high cirrus clouds, a chance of an isolated shower, good visibility, easterly winds 10 to 15 knots and a temperature near 81 degrees F.

Weather remains at 80% GO for the back-up launch window opportunity available on Friday, Aug. 28.

Primary Concerns: Cumulus Cloud Rule, Thick Cloud Layer Rule

Remote cameras set up at Launch Complex 34 and the Apollo 1 memorial with flame ducts and launch mount to photograph the ULA Delta IV Heavy ready for liftoff with NROL-44 spysat for U.S. National Reconnaissance Office from Space Launch Complex-37. Launch targeted for 2:12 a.m. ET Aug. 27, 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: Jean Wright/Space UpClose

Overall this will be 141st mission for United Launch Alliance (50:50 joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin) and the 29th for the NRO.

It is the 385th Delta launch since 1960, the 12th Delta IV Heavy and the 8th Heavy for the NRO.

Only 5 Delta IV Heavy launches remain in the ULA manifest.

The MST was rolled back this evening.

Watch my Aug. 25 commentary at WKMG CBS 6 TV News Orlando

Video Caption: It’s going to be a busy three days on the Space Coast with three rocket launches scheduled for a history-making line up but to make this triple-header happen, the weather and rocketry must align. Credit: James Sparvero/CBS 6

Watch my Aug. 14 guest host and Aug 3 interview appearances at ‘Stay Curious’ show at the American Space Museum about successful Mars Perseverance launch, successful splashdown SpaceX Crew Dragon on Demo-2 1st commercial mission as well as upcoming Crew-1, Artemis Moon mission, SpaceX Starlink and more:

Guest Hosts Ken & Jean Talk about Photographing Space Events at KSC to help you “Stay Curious.”

Filling in for MarQ today are space journalist Ken Kremer and launch photographer/Shuttle “Sew Sister” Jean Wright, who will take you behind the scenes of covering rocket launches on the Cape Canaveral “Rocket Ranch.” Marty is behind the camera to keep Ken & Jean in line, and help you “Stay Curious!”

Posted by American Space Museum & Space Walk of Fame on Friday, August 14, 2020

SpaceX Dragon and Mars Rover update from space journalist Dr. Ken Kremer

Space journalist Dr. Ken Kremer gives the latest insight to the successful crew Dragon Endeavour flight of SpaceX. MarQ & Marty ask Ken about the crewed flight, as well as the Mars rover launch—all to help you “Stay Curious.”

Posted by American Space Museum & Space Walk of Fame on Monday, August 3, 2020

Watch Ken’s continuing reports about Commercial Crew and Artemis and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Demo-2, Starlink, X-37B, Solar Orbiter, Mars 2020 and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com

Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
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Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events

Aug 26 – 7 PM: Quality Inn Kennedy Space Center, Titusville, FL. “ULA Delta IV Heavy, NASA Mars 2020 rover and SpaceX Crew-1, Demo-2, GPS, Starlink and more launches.” Free. In hotel lobby. Photos for sale

US Flag and ULA Delta IV Heavy as rocket readies for launch with NROL-44 spysat for the NRO from Space Launch Complex-37. Launch targeted for 2:12 a.m. ET Aug. 27, 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

 

Remote cameras set up at Launch Complex 34 and the Apollo 1 memorial with flame ducts and launch mount to photograph the ULA Delta IV Heavy ready for liftoff with NROL-44 spysat for U.S. National Reconnaissance Office from Space Launch Complex-37. Launch targeted for 2:12 a.m. ET Aug. 27, 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
NROL-44 mission artwork. Credit NRO/ULA

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Ken Kremer

Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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