Rocket Lab’s next mission for the National Reconnaissance Office — the second of two consecutive launches for the U.S. spy satellite agency — has been postponed to complete a software update of the classified payload, the NRO said Monday.
The mission, codenamed NROL-199, was set to launch Friday from Rocket Lab’s commercial spaceport in New Zealand’s North Island.
“NRO is currently implementing payload software updates for NROL-199,” the NRO tweeted Monday. “Once the updates are implemented, NRO and Rocket Lab will provide a new launch date for NROL-199.”
The NROL-199 mission is scheduled to take off with Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle from New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. It is the second of two consecutive NRO missions on Rocket Lab’s schedule, following the launch of the NROL-162 mission on July 13.
Rocket Lab’s 18-foot-tall electron launcher is designed to tow small payloads into space, with the ability to deliver up to 440 pounds (200 kilograms) of payload into a 310-mile-high (500 kilometers) polar orbit. The light class commercial launcher has flown 28 times, with 25 successful missions.
If the NROL-199 mission had launched Friday as planned, it would have launched just nine days after Rocket Lab’s previous mission for the NRO, the US government’s spy satellite agency. The July 13 NROL-162 mission took off 15 days after Rocket Lab’s earlier launch, propelling NASA’s small CAPSTONE satellite to the moon, a record time for the smallsat launch company.
The increased launch speed is made possible by the operation of two launch pads at Rocket Lab’s private spaceport in New Zealand.
Missions NROL-162 and NROL-199 will carry national security payloads designed, built and operated by the National Reconnaissance Office in conjunction with the Australian Department of Defense as part of a wide range of cooperative satellite activities with Australia. . said. “The satellites will support the NRO in providing critical information to government agencies and decision-makers following international issues.”
The payloads are classified, as with most NRO satellites. They will operate in low Earth orbit, but the target orbital height and inclination have not been released.
The NRO awarded Rocket Lab the contract for the NROL-162 and NROL-199 missions in 2020 through NRO’s Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket, or RASR, contract mechanism.
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