Northrop Grumman launches Minotaur IV rocket for US NRO

16 July 2020 (Last Updated July 16th, 2020 14:17)

Northrop Grumman has launched its Minotaur IV rocket carrying satellites for the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) agency National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

Northrop Grumman launches Minotaur IV rocket for US NRO
Northrop Grumman successfully launched its Minotaur IV Rocket into orbit. Credit: Northrop Grumman.

Northrop Grumman has launched its Minotaur IV rocket carrying satellites for the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) agency National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

During the NROL-129 launch (L-129), the Minotaur IV rocket was carrying a classified payload. It is designed to carry payloads of up to 1,800kg to low Earth orbit.

Launch of the seventh Minotaur IV flight was conducted from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0B at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.

The Minotaur IV was configured to comprise three decommissioned Peacekeeper stages and a Northrop Grumman manufactured Orion 38 solid-fuel upper stage.

Northrop Grumman produces the Minotaur rockets at its US facilities in Chandler in Arizona, Vandenberg in California, and Clearfield and Magna in Utah.

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

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

The US Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Enterprise programme is responsible for providing the launch services for the mission.

The 78ft tall Minotaur IV launch vehicle consists of three solid-fuelled motors from decommissioned Peacekeeper and Minuteman ICBMs.

Northrop Grumman has incorporated the launcher with modern avionics and other subsystems.

Previously, Minotaur rockets have launched from ranges in Alaska, California, Florida and Virginia.