The launch of the SILENTBARKER / NROL-107 mission by the United Launch Alliance (ULA), Centennial, Colorado, USA, marks the first time L3Harris and Aerojet Rocketdyne propulsion systems and spaceflight avionics have flown on a ULA rocket as one company. The SILENTBARKER / NROL-107 is a classified mission aimed at improving space domain awareness for the US National Reconnaissance Office and US Space Force, launching from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, aboard a ULA Atlas V rocket.
Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL10 engine, which will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its first successful mission later this year, provides main propulsion for the Atlas V’s Centaur upper stage. Since its first successful flight in November 1963, the RL10 has been upgraded six times. Aerojet Rocketdyne is currently qualifying a new model of the RL10, the RL10C-X, which uses Additive Manufacturing technology to significantly reduce the cost of the engine, while increasing its performance to enhance mission capability.
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In addition to the RL10 for main propulsion, the Centaur uses twelve Aerojet Rocketdyne MR-106 reaction control thrusters to steer the stage and place the payload into a precise orbit. The Centaur and Atlas V rocket’s first stages are both supported by pressure tanks provided by Aerojet Rocketdyne’s ARDÉ subsidiary.
“Helping to launch critical national security assets into orbit is one of our most important missions,” said George Prueger, RL10 programme director, Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3Harris Technologies company. “Our flight proven and reliable RL10 upper-stage engines have supported these types of missions for nearly six decades aboard several different generations of Atlas, Delta and Titan rockets. We look forward to providing them for many years to come.”
The proven launch avionics suite supporting the Atlas V includes communications, range safety receivers, power distribution and control, data acquisition, and navigation. This electronic equipment is specifically designed and qualified for use on missiles, launch vehicles, and spacecraft. Its high reliability improves performance and helps control costs.
This marks ULA’s 157th successful launch.