Classified NRO satellite readied for launch

A classified satellite is scheduled to be launched from Cape Canaveral on March 25 on behalf of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

The satellite, designated NROL-67, will be boosted into orbit by an Atlas V rocket configured to carry some of the heaviest payloads sent into space. The same "541" configuration was used to boost the Mars Science Laboratory carrying the Curiosity rover.

The launch configuration refers to the vehicle's five-meter fairing, its cluster of four solid rocket boosters and a single-engine Centaur upper stage that can deliver the satellite to low Earth or geosynchronous orbit. The Centaur engine can be restarted, but it is unknown how many "burns" will be required to place the secret reconnaissance satellite into its desired orbit.

The classified NRO payload is scheduled for liftoff from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 2:48 p.m. eastern time on March 25.

United Launch Alliance is overseeing launch preparations.

About the Author

George Leopold is a contributing editor for Defense Systems and author of Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom."Connect with him on Twitter at @gleopold1.

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