A Northrop Grumman Minotaur IV rocket carrying a classified payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is scheduled for launch on July 15 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
The launch vehicle, built and operated by Northrop Grumman (previously Orbital ATK), is scheduled for liftoff from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s (MARS) Pad 0B on Wallops Island.
The U.S. Space Force (USSF) Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC)’s Launch Enterprise Program is providing the launch services for this mission.
The launch may be visible along the U.S. east coast. In addition, the mission will be streamed live beginning at 8:30 a.m. on the Wallops YouTube channel. The NASA Visitor Center at Wallops will not be open for this mission.
This mission, named NROL-129, will be the first USSF mission from Wallops Flight Facility and the spy satellite agency’s first dedicated launch from Wallops.
NROL-129 is the first Minotaur mission from Wallops since 2013 and the second orbital launch from the MARS launch pads in 2020. Minotaur rockets have been launched from Wallops for nearly 14 years.
The 78-foot tall Minotaur IV launch vehicle consists of three solid-fueled motors from decommissioned Peacekeeper Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) and Northrop Grumman’s commercial Orion 38 solid rocket upper stage. Minotaur IV made its maiden flight on 22 April 2010, carrying the HTV-2a Hypersonic Test Vehicle. The first orbital launch occurred on 26 September 2010 with the SBSS satellite for the U.S. Air Force (USAF).
The NRO is the Intelligence Community (IC) element and a Department of Defense (DoD) agency responsible for developing, acquiring, launching, and operating America’s intelligence satellites to meet the national security needs of the nation.