Northrop Grumman on Wednesday launched its Minotaur IV space launch vehicle and placed a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) spacecraft into orbit at 9:46 a.m. EDT on July 15.
The Minotaur IV was launched from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0B at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. The rocket carried four classified payloads for the NRO. The U.S. Space Force (USSF) Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Enterprise Program provided the launch services for this mission.
The NRO is the Intelligence Community element and a U.S. Department of Defense agency responsible for developing, acquiring, launching, and operating America’s intelligence satellites to meet the national security needs of the nation.
The NROL-129 launch (L-129) was the seventh Minotaur IV flight. The Minotaur IV is capable of launching payloads of up to 4,000 pounds (or 1,800 kilograms) to low earth orbit. This mission’s Minotaur IV configuration included three decommissioned Peacekeeper stages and a Northrop Grumman manufactured Orion 38 solid fuel upper stage.
The Minotaur family of launch vehicles is based on government-furnished Peacekeeper and Minuteman rocket motors that the company has integrated with modern avionics and other subsystems to produce a cost-effective, responsive launcher based on flight-proven hardware.
The vehicle used to launch the L-129 mission was procured under the OSP-3 contract administered by the U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Enterprise Small Launch and Targets Division at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. Minotaur vehicles are currently available to customers under the OSP-4 contract.