New USSF space access capability launched

Northrop Grumman has launched the Tactically Responsive Launch-2 (TacRL-2) payload into orbit for the US Space Force (USSF) using the company’s Pegasus XL rocket.

In a June 13 release Northrop Grumman stated that Pegasus, an air-launched three-staged rocket carried aloft by Northrop Grumman’s modified "Stargazer" L-1011 aircraft, has launched more than 90 satellites into low earth orbit from five separate launch sites in the US, Europe and the Marshall Islands. The system has made a total of 45 launches to date.

L-1011 launching TacRL-2
The US Space Force launched the Tactically Responsive Launch-2 (TacRL-2) mission on a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket. US Space Force

“This Pegasus launch was a clear demonstration of our team’s ability to provide rapid and responsive operational needs,” said Rich Straka, VP launch vehicles, Northrop Grumman. “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.”

According to the USSF, the Tactically Responsive Launch concept is intended to introduce a launch capability able to insert or replace assets on orbit faster than standard timeline permit, in order to meet emerging military requirements.

The TacRL-2 mission was executed by the Small Launch and Targets Division within the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Enterprise, in partnership with SMC’s Space Safari Office, and launched a satellite built and operated by the US Air Force Research Laboratory and Space Dynamics Laboratory.

TacRL-2 launch
The US Space Force is looking at ways to conduct space operations faster than previous timelines have permitted. US Space Force

During a six-month standby period, a notice to launch was executed and the satellite launched several weeks later, exercising concept of operations, tactics, techniques and procedures required of a responsive launch, the USSF stated on June 13.

Further, the USSF said that the mission was a first-of-its-kind effort that had identified several constraints and lessons learned. Information gleaned from the launch will be used to improve upcoming TacRL missions, with the Space Safari office planned to launch in 2022 and 2023.

Tactically Responsive Launch is the first step toward the USSF acquiring a tactical space mobility and logistics capability to support combatant command’s future requirements for tactical space domain operations.