Minotaur IV Rocket Successfully Launches NROL-129

Launch of NROL-129 atop a Minotaur IV rocket from Wallops Flight Facility on July 15, 2020. Photo: Cole Ippoliti / AmericaSpace.com

NASA WALLOPS FLIGHT FACILITY, Va. – The U.S. Space Force successfully launched a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office aboard a Minotaur IV rocket at 9:46 a.m. EST (6:46 a.m. Pacific) today from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

This mission, named NROL-129, was the first USSF launch and the NRO’s first dedicated launch from WFF. The launch vehicle, built and operated by Northrop Grumman Corporation, lifted off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0B at NASA’s WFF and was visible throughout the mid-Atlantic region. 

“I am thrilled with today’s successful launch for our NRO mission partner, and look forward to our additional missions with Northrop Grumman,” stated Lt. Col. Ryan Rose, chief of SMC Launch Enterprise’s Small Launch and Targets Division. “This was the first USSF mission and the first dedicated NRO mission from WFF and we look forward to continuing to launch national priority satellites for our NRO mission partner.”

“Congratulations to the entire government and industry NROL-129 team on successfully pressing forward to execute this important mission amidst this global pandemic,” stated Col. Robert Bongiovi, director of SMC’s Launch Enterprise.

Launch of NROL-129 atop a Minotaur IV rocket from Wallops Flight Facility on July 15, 2020. Photo: Cole Ippoliti / AmericaSpace.com

The U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California, is the center of excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. SMC’s portfolio includes space launch, global positioning systems, military satellite communications, a defense meteorological satellite control network, range systems, space-based infrared systems, and space situational awareness capabilities.

“NROL-129 represents a collaboration between the NRO and our industry partners to design, build, launch and operate a system of satellites that will demonstrate
revolutionary capabilities of value to the nation and our allies,” said Dr. Chris Scolese, the agency’s director. “Despite facing challenges in 2020, we have found new and better ways to collaborate with our partners from a distance, relentlessly pursuing our mission and denying sanctuary to our adversaries. I want to thank all of those involved across NASA, Northrop Grumman, Virginia Space, the Space and Missile Systems Center, and of course, the NRO for pulling together to make this launch a success.”


This mission is the NRO’s third launch of 2020 and carried four payloads designed, built and operated by the agency.

Launch of NROL-129 atop a Minotaur IV rocket from Wallops Flight Facility on July 15, 2020. Photo: Cole Ippoliti / AmericaSpace.com


“The NRO is committed to providing resiliency in our operations through diversified launch options, and the success of NROL-129 is the culmination of years of steadfast collaboration with our civilian, military and commercial space partners to help us achieve that commitment,” said U.S. Air Force Colonel Chad Davis, director of the NRO’s Office of Space Launch. “We have a long record of developing, delivering, launching and operating the world’s most advanced space collection systems and capabilities in support of national security, and we’re happy to add our first dedicated launch from the Virginia Space Coast to that history.”


The NRO’s next launch, NROL-44, is currently scheduled for August 2020 from Cape
Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

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