Four classified reconnaissance payloads were successfully launched into orbit aboard a Minotaur IV on behalf of the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).
The Minotaur IV carrying the NROL-129 payloads was launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia at 13:46 UTC this morning. Following a successful third stage separation, the livestream cut as with all national security missions. As a result, it wasn’t until sometime later that the NRO confirmed that all four NROL-129 payloads had been deployed into low Earth orbit successfully.
The four-stage Minotaur IV is produced by Northrop Grumman. It utilises three solid-fueled motors reclaimed from decommissioned Peacekeeper ICBMs with the addition of a commercial solid rocket upper stage. Over almost 10 years of service, just seven Minotaur IV rockets have been launched.
Launch services aboard the Northrop Grumman Minotaur IV for the NROL-129 mission were secured by the US Space Force through its Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Enterprise Program. It was the first Minotaur IV mission to be launched from Wallops and the first dedicated NRO mission from the NASA facility.
The NRO’s next launch is currently scheduled for August 2020. The NROL-44 mission will be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.