Minotaur IV Launches 1st Classified NRO mission from NASA Wallops

Minotaur IV Launches 1st Classified NRO mission from NASA Wallops
The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) successfully launched its first dedicated mission from NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia, at 09:46 a.m. EDT on July 15, 2020. Credit: NASA/NRO

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.

“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

“A #NROL129 payload for @NatReconOfc was successfully launched aboard our #MinotaurIV rocket from @NASA_Wallops today,” tweeted Northrop Grumman.

 

Here are some NRO launch photos.

“Who doesn’t love an awesome launch photo?” tweeted NRO.

“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 National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) successfully launched its first dedicated mission from NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia, at 09:46 a.m. EDT on July 15, 2020. Credit: NASA

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 National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) successfully launched its first dedicated mission from NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia, at 09:46 a.m. EDT on July 15, 2020. Credit: NASA/NRO

The NRO’s next launch, NROL-44, is currently scheduled for August 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) successfully launched its first dedicated mission from NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia, at 09:46 a.m. EDT on July 15, 2020. Credit: NASA/NRO

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.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com

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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Northrop Grumman Minotaur IV rocket for NRO NROL-129 mission. Credit: Northrop Grumman

 

 

 

The National Reconnaissance Office’s two patches for the NROL-129 mission feature “two warrior figures working together to defend our nation’s interests and deny our enemies sanctuary,” the NRO said. “The patches include the phrase ‘Our Time has Come,’ which symbolizes that these payloads will enable the NRO’s continued support to both defense and intelligence operations in support of national security.” Credit: NRO

 

 

 

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Ken Kremer

Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. 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. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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