Orion 9 (USA 268, NROL-37, Mentor-7)
Int. spacecraft nº:
US spacecraft nº:
|Designation|| 41584 / 16036A|
|Launch date|| 11 June 2016 - 17:51 UT|
(1:51 p.m. EDT)
|Launch site|| CC, SLC-37B|
|| Delta-4H (upg.)|
|Mission|| Military: Earth observation, ELINT|
|Geostationary orbit over the Indian Ocean:|
|Perigee / Apogee|| 35613 x 35903 km|
|Inclination|| 7.51 °|
|Period|| 1437.19 min||
|Prime manufacturer|| TRW ? Northrop Grumman Space Technology|
|Operator|| National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)|
|Mass at launch || 5000 kg|
|Dry Mass|| kg|
|Basic shape || |
|Dimension (m)|| |
|Solar array|| |
|Stabilization || Large Dish Antenna, 3-Axis-Stabilization|
|DC power || |
|Design lifetime || |
| 7 Jul 2016|| 103° E|| drift|
| Dec 2016|| 102.6° E|| |
- USA 268 (NROL-37) is a top-secret geostationary surveillance satellite, owned and operated by the National Reconnaissance Office, the government agency responsible
for running the country´s fleet of spy satellites. NRO spacecraft capture signals and images critical to the U.S. intelligence community for warfighters and policy
makers combating ISIS and Al-Qaeda and monitoring the activities in North Korea, Iran, Russia, China and other global hotspots
- The Orion 3 - 9 satellites, which are generally known as ´Advanced Orion´ or ´Mentor´, are geostationary signals intelligence satellites, which replaced the
Magnum / Orion series. Their purpose is to intercept missile telemetry from Russia and China. Reportedly the COMINT capability of the Mercury satellites was merged
into this series
- These satellites feature a large dish antenna for signal reception, which has reportedly a diameter of ~100 m. The satellites of this series are injected directly
into the final orbit by the launch vehicle's upper stage, so they did faeture an apogee propulsion system.
- Two million pounds [8.9 million N] of firepower successfully launched a behemoth Delta 4-Heavy rocket and a top-secret eavesdropping surveillance satellite
into space on June 11, embarking on a taxing climb directly into geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles [35,888 km] above the Earth to deploy one of the pinnacles of U.S.
At T-0, the holddown bolts released and the three launch pad umbilical arms swung back as the 1.6 million pound [725,748-kg] rocket took off, trailing three distinct
engine plumes from the Aerojet Rocketdyne powerplants.
Igniting its three hydrogen-fueled main engines in staggered sequence, the 235-foot[71.6-m]-tall booster sent tremors across the Cape Canaveral region as it lifted off
at 1:51 p.m. EDT (1751 GMT) to cap a smooth-as-silk countdown.
The United Launch Alliance rocket headed east, a definitive clue the clandestine cargo was an equator-hugging spacecraft almost certainly a communications interceptor
for the U.S. government to spy on terrorist groups and advisarial countries.
- Less than a minute into the flight, the center Common Booster Core´s main engine throttled back to about half-thrust as a fuel conservation effort. The 15-story
starboard and port boosters continued to operate at their maximum power setting, burning out and peeling away four minutes after liftoff.
The core then revved back up and burned for another 90 seconds before jettisoning to leave the upper stage´s Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10B-2 engine to continue powering
into orbit on 24,750 pounds [110,000 N] of thrust.
Now out of the Earth´s atmosphere, the 17-foot[5.2-m]-wide, 65-foot[19.8-m]-long protective nose cone shrouding the payload was no longer needed and jettisoned about six minutes after liftoff.
The initial burn by the upper stage put the vehicle into a low-altitude, 135-mile[217-km]-high parking orbit before climbing into a highly-elliptical geosynchronous transfer
orbit stretching over 22,000 miles [35,406 km] with the second burn. A multi-hour coast ensued to reach apogee before a third burn circularized the orbit at 22,300
miles [35,888 km] in altitude.
Ref.: #7(JR727), #12, #14, #226, #228 - update: 23.04.17