Northrop Grumman Corporation launched its Minotaur I rocket today at 9:35 a.m. EDT, successfully placing a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) payload into orbit. The Minotaur I was launched 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, and the company’s state-of-the-art avionics. The vehicle is capable of launching payloads of up to 1,278 pounds (or 580 kilograms) into low Earth orbit.
“This was our second launch of a Minotaur rocket for the NRO from Wallops in the past 12 months,” said Rich Straka, vice president, launch vehicles, Northrop Grumman. “Northrop Grumman is able to repurpose retired Peacekeeper and Minuteman propulsion, integrating them with company built solid rocket motors along with new subsystems for our Minotaur family of launch vehicles, allowing us to provide reliable, cost-effective and responsive access to space for our customers.”
The vehicle used to launch the NROL-111 mission was procured under the OSP-3 contract administered by the U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Enterprise Small Launch and Targets Division at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. Minotaur vehicles are currently available to customers under the OSP-4 contract. The NROL-111 launch was the 12th Minotaur I flight and 6th from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. The Minotaur family of launch vehicles is comprised of multiple configurations, tailored to meet unique mission requirements. The Minotaur fleet has now completed 28 missions from ranges in Alaska, California, Florida and Virginia with 100 percent success.
Northrop Grumman’s Minotaur rockets are manufactured at facilities in Chandler, Arizona; Vandenberg, California; and Clearfield and Magna, Utah. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) is an American multinational aerospace and defense technology company. With 90,000 employees and an annual revenue in excess of $30 billion, it is one of the world’s largest weapons manufacturers and military technology providers. The firm ranks No. 96 on the 2020 Fortune 500 list of America’s largest corporations. Among its other current projects are development and production of the James Webb Space Telescope, an orbiting observatory slated for launch in 2021; and production of the solid rocket boosters for NASA’s Space Launch System program. It was the sole bidder on the Air Force’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program, which aims to develop and build a new intercontinental ballistic missile.