Mission NROL-111 of the US National Space Intelligence Agency is scheduled for today, June 15. The Minotaur I solid-propellant rocket will launch three payloads for the Pentagon into orbit. The launch is carried out by Northrop Grumman Corporation.
The main passenger on the rocket is the sixth and last military satellite of the AEHF group of tamper-resistant communications devices. Little is known about him, except that the mass of the equipment should not exceed 580 kg (the “ceiling” for Minotaur I with such a load is an orbit of 185 km with an inclination of 28.5 °). The rocket can put up to 331 kg into a sun-synchronous orbit.
The traditionally whimsical mission emblem depicts an aviator boar with the slogan “Courage is my friend.” According to the NRO, these animals are good examples of tenacity. The three stars in the logo represent the three payloads.
The launch at the commercial spaceport Wallops in Virginia is scheduled for 14:00 Kiev time. The launch point will be 07:00 am.
Pad 0B is located on the east coast of Wallops, one of Virginia’s barrier islands:
After a short vertical ascent, the Minotaur, as befits an intercontinental ballistic missile, will deflect and lie on a given course.
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“Minotaur-1” is a solid-fuel four-stage light-class missile built on the basis of a decommissioned silo-based intercontinental ballistic missile LGM-30 (Minuteman II). Powered by toxic hydroxyl terminated polybutadiene (HTPB). Height – 19.21 m, diameter – 1.67 m, launch weight – 36.2 tons, stage thrust – 935, 268, 118 and 35 kN. Since 2000 – 11 launches with 62 satellites, all successful.
The first stage is the M55A1, the second is the SR19 from Minuteman (both for a total of $ 4.3 million), the third and fourth are the commercial Orion 50XL and Orion 38 from the Pegasus rocket, respectively.
The HAPS Hydrazine Upper Stage – fifth stage – is used when multiple payloads need to be deployed (not in this mission).
The bright yellow “wrap” of the rocket, better known as the “banana”, is a thermal blanket for the first and second stages.