Northrop Grumman today successfully launched the Tactically Responsive Launch-2 (TacRL-2) payload into orbit for the U.S. Space Force (USSF), demonstrating an ability to shrink launch timelines from years to weeks.
Using the company’s Pegasus XL rocket carried aloft by a "Stargazer" L-1011 aircraft. the TacRL-2 was launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base this morning. Shortly after its release from Stargazer, at approximately 40,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, Pegasus ignited its first stage, beginning its successful flight carrying TacRL-2 to its intended orbit, a Northrop Grumman release said.
A DVIDS video report described the TacRL-2 payload as a “demonstration of a brand new capability for the space force.” It takes more than a year to integrate and launch a payload, but Northrop Grumman accomplished the entire process in weeks, the report said.
“Our team was able to execute the design, integration and testing of the TacRL-2 launch vehicle in less than four months from contract award,” said Rich Straka, vice president, launch vehicles, Northrop Grumman.
TacRL-2 payload will be used for technology demonstration relating to “space domain awareness” – typically a euphemism for monitoring the activities of other satellites, a report in NasaSpaceflight said.
The primary objective of Sunday’s TacRL-2 mission was to demonstrate an ability to call up a satellite to launch at short notice. The actual operation of the satellite – specifics of which have not been disclosed – is secondary to this demonstration, it said.