Northrop Grumman’s 78-foot-tall Minotaur IV expendable launch system is lifting off from NASA’s Wallops Island flight facility in Virginia. The launch is the first Minotaur IV launch from Virginia’s Space Coast and the first National Reconnaissance Office launch using the Minotaur IV system.
Today’s Minotaur IV launch is also the first use of the expendable launch system since August 2017. The system has been used for a total of seven launches since April 2010, and one to two additional launches are already planned. NASA says the next launch from Wallops Flight Facility will be sometime in mid-August.
Minotaur rockets are created using decommissioned MX Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missiles created in the late 80s and early 90s.
The NROL-129 mission will carry four
payloads designed, built and operated
by the agency and will launch aboard a
Northrop Grumman Minotaur IV rocket NET
July 15, 2020 from Mid-Atlantic Regional
Spaceport Pad 0B. NROL-129 supports
NRO’s overall national security mission to
provide intelligence data to United States’
senior policy makers, the Intelligence
Community and Department of Defense.
The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is an Intelligence Community element and Department of Defense organization responsible for developing, acquiring, launching and operating America’s reconnaissance satellites, as well as operating associated data processing facilities in support of national security. Using NRO data, the National Security Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and other NRO mission partners produce intelligence products for the President, Congress, national policymakers, warfighters, and civil users
The NRO uses a variety of satellites to meet these mission needs – from small sats to more traditional satellites. This approach allows the NRO to pursue a hybrid overhead architecture designed to provide global coverage against a wide range of intelligence requirements, carry out research and development efforts, and assist emergency and disaster relief efforts in the U.S. and around the world.