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Northrop Grumman launches National Reconnaissance Office satellite

Stephen Kuper

Northrop Grumman has successfully launched its Minotaur IV space launch vehicle and placed a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) spacecraft into orbit, from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0B at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.

Northrop Grumman launches National Reconnaissance Office satellite
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The NROL-129 launch (L-129) was the seventh Minotaur IV flight. The Minotaur IV is capable of launching payloads of up to 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 rockets are manufactured at Northrop Grumman’s facilities in Chandler, Arizona; Vandenberg, California; and Clearfield and Magna, Utah.

Kurt Eberly, director of launch vehicles at Northrop Grumman, said, “This mission marks the 27th consecutive successful launch for the company’s Minotaur product line, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.”

The Minotaur family of launch vehicles is based on government-furnished Peacekeeper and Minuteman rocket motors that Northrop Grumman has integrated with modern avionics and other subsystems to produce a cost-effective, responsive launcher based on flight-proven hardware. Minotaur rockets have launched from ranges in Alaska, California, Florida and Virginia.

“Minotaur’s record of success along with its ability to responsively launch from multiple spaceports continues to be a valuable asset for our customers,” Eberly added.

The vehicle used to launch the L-129 mission was procured under the OSP-3 contract administered by the US Space Force Space and Missile Systems Centre’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.

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