Space Force Launches Northrop’s Minotaur IV Rocket With NRO Satellite Payload

NROL-129 Launch
NROL-129 Launch

Northrop Grumman’s Minotaur IV vehicle has launched a classified National Reconnaissance Office satellite mission to orbit as part of the U.S. Space Force’s Orbital/Suborbital Program-3 contract.

Northrop said Wednesday that Minotaur lifted off carrying the NROL-129 payload at 9:46 a.m. Eastern time from NASA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island in Virginia.

The launch, which serves as the Minotaur rocket’s seventh flight with the new configuration, comes after the Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center completed flight readiness review activities at Wallops Flight Facility this week.

The vehicle is currently available for launch services as part of the follow-on OSP-4 award.

Lt. Col. Ryan Rose, chief of SMC’s Launch Small Launch and Targets Division, previously said in a press release that NROL-129 represents the “first dedicated NRO mission” from the Wallops Island spaceport.

“NROL-129 represents a collaboration between the NRO and our industry partners to design, build, launch and operate a system of satellites that will demonstrate revolutionary capabilities of value to the nation and our allies,” said Christopher Scolese, director of the agency and 2020 Wash100 awardee.

Kurt Eberly, director of launch vehicles at Northrop, noted that the launch builds on Minotaur’s history of launching from multiple spaceports for two decades.

Minotaur IV components are based on the rocket stages of the now-decommissioned Minuteman and Peacekeeper platforms. Other Minotaur versions have also been launched from Virginia, Alaska, Florida and California.

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