NROL49 patch.jpg
Patch related to the NROL-49 launch, with Latin motto "Better the devil that you know..."
Operator US NRO
Major contractors Lockheed Martin
Bus KH-11
Mission type Optical imaging
Launch date 20 January 2011
Carrier rocket Delta IV Heavy D352
Launch site Vandenberg SLC-6
COSPAR ID 2011-002A
Orbital elements
Regime Low Earth
Inclination 97.93 degree[1]
Apoapsis 987 km (613 mi)[1]
Periapsis 260 km (160 mi)[1]

USA-224, also known as NRO Launch 49 (NRO L-49), is an American reconnaissance satellite which was launched in 2011. It is a KH-11 optical imaging satellite, the fifteenth such spacecraft to be launched, and intended as a replacement of the USA-161 satellite launched in 2001.

The launch of USA-224

After the failure of the Boeing led Future Imagery Architecture program in 2005, NRO ordered two additional legacy hardware KH-11s. USA-224 - the first of these two - was completed by Lockheed US $ 2 billion under the initial budget estimate, and two years ahead of schedule.[2] USA-224 was launched atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex 6 at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The launch was conducted by United Launch Alliance, and was the first flight of a Delta IV Heavy from Vandenberg.[3] Liftoff occurred on January 20, 2011 at 21:10:30 UTC.[4] Upon reaching orbit, the satellite received the International Designator 2011-002A.[5] The early launch of USA-224, and operational changes to extend the lifetime of its predecessor USA-161, reduced the coverage gap caused by the end of the primary mission of USA-161 to just 33 days.[2]

The fifteenth KH-11 satellite to be launched, USA-224 is a member of one of the later block configurations occasionally identified as being a separate system. Details of its mission and orbit are classified, however amateur observers have identified it as being in a Low Earth orbit with a perigee of 251 kilometres (156 mi), an apogee of 1,023 kilometres (636 mi) and 97.9 degrees of inclination, typical for an operational KH-11 satellite.[6]

See also


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