United Launch Alliance (ULA) rolled its Atlas V rocket to the pad today (Aug. 25) to gear up for the launch of a hush-hush mission next week.
The Atlas V is carrying a payload for "Silent Barker," a joint mission of the U.S. Space Force and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) that's scheduled to launch on Tuesday (Aug. 29) at 8:34 a.m. EDT (1234 GMT). You can watch the liftoff live here at Space.com when the time comes, courtesy of ULA.
The Silent Barker mission, also known as NROL-107, aims to provide "the capability to search, detect and track objects from a space-based sensor for timely custody and event detection," according to a ULA mission description.
"Silent Barker/NROL107 will strengthen the NRO's ability to provide a wide range of timely intelligence information to national decision makers, warfighters and intelligence analysts to protect the nation's vital interests and support humanitarian efforts worldwide," the description adds.
That's pretty much all we know about the mission. The lack of detail isn't surprising; it's the norm for the NRO, which builds and operates the United States' fleet of spy satellites.
The Atlas V has 97 launches under its belt to date, all of which have been successful. Seventeen of those flights have lofted NRO payloads, ULA representatives said via X today.
The workhorse rocket has launched a number of NASA spacecraft as well, including the Curiosity and Perseverance Mars rovers, the OSIRIS-REx asteroid-sampling probe and New Horizons, which performed the first-ever flyby of Pluto in July 2015.
ULA plans to phase out the Atlas V, however; the company is developing a new rocket called Vulcan Centaur, which will replace its older counterpart.