A Northrop Grumman Minotaur IV rocket launched from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) in Virginia right this moment (July 15) at 9:46 a.m. EDT (1346 GMT), carrying the NROL-129 mission to orbit for the U.S. Nationwide Reconnaissance Workplace (NRO).
The NRO develops and operates the nation’s fleet of spy satellites, the actions of that are typically categorized. So we do not know precisely what the NROL-129 spacecraft will likely be doing up there, and even what their closing orbital locations are.
“NROL-129 helps NRO’s total nationwide safety mission to offer intelligence knowledge to United States senior coverage makers, the intelligence neighborhood and Division of Protection,” NRO officers wrote in the mission’s press kit.
The Minotaur IV stands 78 toes (24 meters) tall and consists of 4 phases. The decrease three phases are powered by stable rocket motors sourced from decommissioned Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missiles. The fourth stage options Northrop Grumman’s Orion 38 motor.
The Minotaur IV debuted in April 2010 and now has seven missions below its belt, all of them profitable. Two of the seven have been suborbital flights.
MARS is situated on Virginia’s Wallops Island, adjoining to NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, which ran MARS till 2003. As we speak, the spaceport is operated by the Virginia Industrial House Flight Authority, with assist from NASA Wallops.
NROL-129 is the NRO’s first devoted launch from the MARS-Wallops complicated, in addition to the primary mission the location has hosted in partnership with the U.S. Space Force, which was formally created in December 2019. The Launch Enterprise Program of the House Drive’s House and Missile Programs Middle supplied launch providers for NROL-129.
Mike Wall is the creator of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a e book concerning the seek for alien life. Observe him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Observe us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Fb.