On a beautiful day in South Florida, the world’s largest and most powerful rocket was launched by United Launch Alliance for the ninth time. The mission — dubbed NROL-37 — is to deliver spy satellites to space for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The first launch, for Friday, was scrubbed because of cloudy weather. Today’s launch from Cape Canaveral went off without a hitch and also had the added pleasure of being totally badass. As Inverse reported earlier this week, “The secretive NRO satellite requires a geosynchronous orbit, meaning the probe goes beyond low-earth orbit and remains in the same spot relative to the Earth. Geosynchronous orbits have the advantage of offering satellites a consistent view of a certain part of the world, but are the most difficult to reach. The NROL-37 mission is expected to orbit the Earth at over 22,000 miles from the planet’s surface. With just under 15,000 pounds of clandestine payload to ferry out that far, the Delta IV Heavy was the only rocket currently available to make the haul.” But, yeah, seriously check this bad boy out for yourself:
Here’s a view of the Delta IV getting going, before the three rockets — that weigh in around at 1,616,000 pounds at launch — left Brevard County in a cloud of smoke:
And here’s a look from a wider angle:
Check out the whole enchilada:
Competition from other private rocket companies like SpaceX will drive ULA to develop bigger and better crafts — like its own Vulcan — and lead to the retirement of the Delta IV Heavy. Still, for today’s purposes: radical.
For more of the technical elements at play behind today’s launch, be sure to check out our previous reporting.