For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – A Northrop Grumman Minotaur IV rocket successfully launched a top secret mission with four classified payloads for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) this morning and its was the first ever from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia Space Coast shore.
This mission, named NROL-129, is the first U.S. Space Force (USSF) mission from Wallops Flight Facility and the NRO’s first dedicated launch from Wallops.
Liftoff of the Minotaur IV rocket took place Wednesday, July 15, at 9:46 a.m. EDT (1346 GMT) from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0B on Wallops Island from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA
The NRO launch was provided by the USSF and the Space and Missile Systems Center’s (SMC) Launch Enterprise Program.
“Congratulations to the entire team on the successful launch of #NROL129 – the NRO’s 1st dedicated launch from the Virginia Space Coast!” the NRO tweeted.
Congratulations to the entire team on the successful launch of #NROL129 – the NRO's 1st dedicated launch from the Virginia Space Coast! @NASA_Wallops @AF_SMC @northropgrumman @VCSFA_MARS https://t.co/qsGT2Vp6vs
— NRO (@NatReconOfc) July 15, 2020
“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 Dr. Chris Scolese, the agency’s director, in a statement.
“Despite facing challenges in 2020, we have found new and better ways to collaborate with our partners from a distance, relentlessly pursuing our mission and denying sanctuary to our adversaries. I want to thank all of those involved across NASA, Northrop Grumman, Virginia Space, the Space and Missile Systems Center, and of course, the NRO for pulling together to make this launch a success.”
Watch this video message from Dr. Chris Scolese, the NRO director
Video Caption: NRO Director Dr. Chris Scolese shares a congratulatory message after the successful launch of the agency’s NROL-129 mission from NASA Wallops Flight Facility July 2020. Credit: NRO
The launch finally took place after about a 46 minute delay due to errant fishing boats inside the exclusion zone
— NASA Wallops (@NASA_Wallops) July 15, 2020
— Northrop Grumman (@northropgrumman) July 15, 2020
Here are some NRO launch photos.
“Who doesn’t love an awesome launch photo?” tweeted NRO.
— NRO (@NatReconOfc) July 16, 2020
“The NRO is the Intelligence Community element and a Department of Defense agency responsible for developing, acquiring, launching, and operating America’s intelligence satellites to meet the national security needs of the nation,” says the NRO.
The 78-foot tall Minotaur IV launch vehicle consists of three solid-fueled motors from decommissioned Peacekeeper ICBMs and a commercial solid rocket upper stage from Northrop Grumman.
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 NRO’s next launch, NROL-44, is currently scheduled for August 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Watch Ken’s continuing reports about Commercial Crew and Artemis and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Demo-2, Starlink, X-37B, Solar Orbiter, Mars 2020 and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
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Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
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