Rocket Lab launches classified mission for National Reconnaissance Office

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NROL-199 was the second of two missions the NRO developed in partnership with the Australian Department of Defence

WASHINGTON — A Rocket Lab Electron rocket launched a National Reconnaissance Office mission Aug. 4 at 1:00 a.m. Eastern. The NROL-199 mission lifted off from the company’s Launch Complex-1 at Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand.

Rocket Lab said the payload separated from the rocket an hour after liftoff and the payload was deployed to its intended orbit. The NRO also confirmed the mission was successful.

NROL-199 was the second of two missions the NRO developed in partnership with the Australian Department of Defence. The first one, NROL-162, launched from Mahia Peninsula July 13.

Rocket Lab and the NRO sought to demonstrate that two national security missions could be launched within a short timeline. 

“The NROL-162 and NROL-199 missions demonstrate NRO’s capability to launch multiple rockets from overseas locations within weeks of one another,” the NRO said in a news release. “This speed and agility are critical as NRO innovates faster working with government partners. NRO worked closely with New Zealand Space Agency, which licensed the launch, and Rocket Lab as the launch provider.”

Launch services for NROL-162 and NROL-199 were acquired through the NRO’s Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket (RASR) contract the agency uses to buy small satellite launch services from commercial providers.

NROL-162 and NROL-199 were NRO’s third and fourth launches from a Rocket Lab Electron rocket and from New Zealand. The previous Electron launches occurred Jan. 31, 2020 with the NROL-151 mission, and June 13, 2020 with the RASR-2 launch.