Atlas V Delivers National Security Payload

The mobile service tower is rolled back from an Atlas V rocket at Vandenberg AFB in preparation for a Dec. 5 launch. (Photo: United Launch Alliance, LLC)

An Atlas V rocket successfully launched a national security payload into orbit late Thursday night, Dec. 5,  from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The Atlas flew in what’s known colloquially as the “501” configuration, meaning it has a five-meter payload fairing, no solid rocket boosters, and one RL10 engine in its Centaur upper stage.

Ray Johnson, Aerospace vice president for Space Launch Operations, issued the following statement from Vandenberg:

“This is Ray Johnson early Friday morning, Dec. 6, and I’m very pleased to announce the successful launch of Atlas V and its NROL-39 satellite. The vehicle lifted off of Space Launch Complex 3e here at Vandenberg Air Force Base very near the opening of the launch window at 11:14 p.m. Thursday evening. There were no flight issues and we successfully deployed the primary satellite. This mission was unique in that the Centaur upper stage had an aft bulkhead carrier that contained 12 CubeSats. We just deployed the last CubeSat this morning at 3 a.m. All CubeSats were successfully deployed. Congratulations to the Atlas team on this outstanding success.”