ULA Mighty Atlas V 531 – NROL 101

UPDATE: ULA Atlas V NROL 101 Scrubbed, due to an unexpected system response from remotely commanded ground system liquid oxygen valves.

Space Coast, FL – Tonight, United Launch Alliance is slated to lift off an Atlas V rocket. The mission is for the National Reconnaissance Office and is named NROL-101. The Atlas V will be flying in the 531 configuration.

ULA Atlas V 531 on SLC-41
ULA Atlas V 531 hours prior to lift off for NROL-101 | photo: Jon Van Horne

What does ‘531 configuration’ mean?

So glad you asked! 5 stands for the 5 meter (diameter) fairing that sits on top of the rocket booster core. The 3 is for the 3 Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) that are mated to the stern of the rocket. Finally, the 1 is for the single Centaur 2nd stage engine.

Northrop Grumman GEM-63 SRBs on ULA Atlas V
3 new Northrop Grumman Solid Rocket Boosters attached to main core booster | photo: Jon Van Horne

ULA Atlas V Mission – NROL 101

When the United States needs eyes and ears in critical places where no human can reach – be it over the most rugged terrain or through the most hostile territory – it turns to then NRO. The NRO is the U.S. government agency tasked with designing, building, launching and maintaining America’s intelligence satellites. In other words, classified by the DoD (Space Force Department of Defense).

The payload and SLC-41 tower of ULA Atlas V
Payload faring prepped and ready for lift off on-top of the Atlas V 531 | photo: Jon Van Horne

The launch is slated for 1754 EST (2254 UTC) this evening, November 4, 2020.

ULA has successfully delivered 140 missions to orbit that provide Earth observation capabilities and enable global communications. They have sent missions to unlock the mysteries of our solar system and support life-saving technology. We can expect a beautiful launch tonight, weather permitting.

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Jon Van Horne
Jon Van Horne

He began his career in media as a multimedia designer and developer in Montreal, Quebec. He developed a passion for media during his job in Photography and Video at a Montreal media content company. Other passions in media, photography/videography and soon going back to school in engineering.