NROL-44 (Delta IV Heavy)
10 December 2020
Space Launch Complex 37
Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launched the NROL-44 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) from Space Launch Complex-37 (SLC-37) at the newly renamed Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 8:09 p.m. on 10 December 2020. The secret payload is believed to be an electronic eavesdropping satellite.

The NRO is the U.S. government agency tasked with designing, building, launching and maintaining America’s intelligence satellites.

Beginning in 1961 to declassification to the public in 1992, the NRO has worked tirelessly to provide the best reconnaissance support possible to the Intelligence Community and Department of Defense.

With three common booster cores, the Heavy is the largest in the Delta IV fleet and is the nation’s proven heavy lifter, delivering high-priority missions for the U.S. Air Force, National Reconnaissance Office and NASA. The Delta IV Heavy also launched NASA’s Orion spacecraft on its historic Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1) in 2014.

First Launch: December 21, 2004
Launches to date: 11
Performance to GTO: 14,210 kg (31,330 lb)
Performance to LEO-Reference: 28,370 kg (62,540 lb)

The triple orange cores of the Delta IV Heavy can be seen inside the Mobile Service Tower at Space Launch Complex-37 a few days before the launch.
A time exposure of the launch as seen from the intersection of Jungle Trail and Wildlife Way at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge.

About the artwork from the National Reconnaissance Office:

The wolf's howl represents a warning to the pack as the first point of detection of signs of trouble. The wolf's voice, in this representation is directed toward space, where NRO [National Reconnaissance Office] spacecraft are operating the agency's overhead collection mission in support of defense and intelligence operations.

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