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ULA rolls out Atlas V rocket for classified government launch at Cape Canaveral

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the National Reconnaissance Office payload, NROL-107 Silentbarker, rolls to Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Friday. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the National Reconnaissance Office payload, NROL-107 Silentbarker, rolls to Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Friday. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI

Aug. 25 (UPI) -- United Launch Alliance rolled out an Atlas V rocket Friday in preparation for next week's planned launch of a classified space surveillance mission from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

The ULA conducted Friday's movements in partnership with the U.S. Space Force and the National Reconnaissance Office. The NRO contracted ULA in 2019 to produce the Atlas V rocket and carry out mission integration, mission launch operations and other activities.

The launch is scheduled to take place at 8:34 a.m. EDT on Tuesday.

"Our Atlas V rocket has arrived at its Cape Canaveral pad for Tuesday's launch of a new national security capability, called SILENTBARKER/NROL-107, that will advance our Space Domain Awareness against threats in orbit," ULA said in a statement on its website.

"Surveillance from space augments and overcomes existing ground sensor limitations with timely 24-hour above-the-weather collection of satellite metric data only possible with a space-based sensor and then communicates its findings to satellite operators, analysts, and other mission users."

The mission is conducted in partnership between the NRO and the U.S. Space Force. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
The mission is conducted in partnership between the NRO and the U.S. Space Force. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI

Because the mission is classified, the government hasn't provided many details about the contents of the payload or the scope of its capabilities.

The NRO describes Silentbarker/NROL-107 as "a joint NRO and U.S. Space Force space domain awareness mission to meet Department of Defense and intelligence community space protection needs."

Ron Fortson, ULA director and general manager of launch operations speaks to the media as the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket rolls to Launch Complex 41. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
Ron Fortson, ULA director and general manager of launch operations speaks to the media as the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket rolls to Launch Complex 41. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI

The ULA has launched 17 Atlas V rockets as part of NRO missions, with Tuesday's planned event being the 18th and final from Cape Canaveral, according to the NRO. In addition to the powerful Atlas V rocket, the mission will include the Centaur upper stage, a liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen-fueled vehicle that produces 106 kilo-Newtons of thrust.