Northrop Grumman successfully placed a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) payload into orbit, following a June 15 launch on board a Minotaur I rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0B at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.
The Minotaur I is a four-staged solid fuel space launch vehicle, featuring two decommissioned Minuteman rocket motors, Northrop Grumman-manufactured Orion 50XL and Orion 38 solid rocket motors. The vehicle is capable of launching payloads of up to 1,278lb (580kg) into low Earth orbit.
“This was our second launch of a Minotaur rocket for the NRO from Wallops in the past 12 months,” confirmed Rich Straka, vice president, launch vehicles at Northrop Grumman.
The vehicle used to launch the NROL-111 mission was procured under the Orbital-Suborbital Program (OSP)-3 contract administered by the US Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Enterprise Small Launch and Targets Division at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.
The NROL-111 launch was the twelfth Minotaur I flight and sixth from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.
According to Northrop Grumman the Minotaur family of launch vehicles have completed 28 missions from ranges in Alaska, California, Florida and Virginia with a 100% success rate, with systems currently available to customers under the OSP-4 contract.
The NRO is a US federal agency in charge of designing, building, launching and maintaining military intelligence satellites for the provision of imagery and signals intelligence.