Northrop Grumman’s Pegasus rocket launches U.S. Space Force mission

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The mission is part of the Space Force’s tactically responsive launch program

WASHINGTON — A Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket launched the U.S. Space Force’s Tactically Responsive Launch-2 (TacRL-2) mission June 13 at 1:11 a.m. Pacific from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. 

The payload was successfully deployed its intended orbit, a Space Force spokesman confirmed on Sunday.

Pegasus is an air-launched rocket deployed from a Stargazer L-1011 aircraft. Shortly after its release from Stargazer, at approximately 40,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, Pegasus ignited its first stage and flew TacRL-2 to a sun-synchronous low-Earth orbit. 

TacRL-2 is a technology demonstration satellite to be used for space surveillance. The Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Safari office integrated the satellite built and operated by the Air Force Research Laboratory and Utah State University Space Dynamics Laboratory.

TacRL-2 is named after the Space Force’s tactically responsive launch program, an effort to figure out ways to shrink the timelines for planning space missions. This was the first mission supported by SMC’s new Space Safari program office. 

“When I challenged the Space and Missile Systems Center about a year ago to demonstrate a responsive space capability, they accepted and delivered,” Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond said in a statement. “The team presented an integrated space domain awareness satellite ready for launch in record time,” he said. “What normally would have required two to five years, took 11 months.”

Launch vehicle assembly, integration and testing were completed within four months of contract award, said Lt. Col. Ryan Rose, chief of SMC’s Small Launch and Targets Division.

This was the 45th launch of the solid-fueled Pegasus. Northrop Grumman said Pegasus has launched more than 90 satellites to low Earth orbit from five launch sites in the United States, Europe and the Marshall Islands.