On Wednesday (July 13), at 2:30 a.m. EDT, a Rocket Lab Electron booster topped with the NROL-162 spacecraft lifted off from the company’s New Zealand site (0630 GMT; 6:30 p.m. local time in New Zealand).
The NROL-162 will strengthen the NRO’s ability to provide a wide range of timely intelligence information to national decision-makers and intelligence analysts to protect the United States’ vital interests and support humanitarian efforts around the world.
The NRO and the Australian Department of Defense collaborated on NROL-162 (AUS DoD). If everything goes as planned, Rocket Lab will launch another mission developed by these two organizations soon; NROL-199 is set to launch atop an Electron from New Zealand as early as July 23.
The NROL-162 mission, dubbed “Wise One Looks Ahead” by Rocket Lab, was the latest in a long line of national-security missions launched by the company for the US government. Electron, for example, launched NRO’s classified NROL-151 satellite in January 2020. In June of that year, Rocket Lab launched three more classified payloads for the CIA.
“Wise One Looks Ahead” was Electron’s 28th overall launch. Electron is a 58-foot-tall (19-meter) rocket designed to deliver small satellites to Earth orbit. Electron consists of two main stages and a small kick stage that transports customer payloads to their precise orbital destinations.
An electron can also be equipped with a Photon, a more advanced version of the kick stage, to propel spacecraft even further away. On June 28, for example, a Photon-equipped Electron launched NASA’s tiny CAPSTONE CubeSat toward the moon. CAPSTONE successfully launched from the Photon on July 4 and is now making its long and looping journey to lunar orbit, where it is expected to arrive on November 13.
However, if everything goes as planned, several other releases will follow closely on the heels of “Wise One Looks Ahead.” Arianespace’s new Vega C rocket, for example, is set to launch for the first time on Wednesday at 7:13 a.m. EDT (1113 GMT), and SpaceX plans to launch a robotic Dragon cargo capsule to the International Space Station on Thursday night (July 14). Follow TechGenyz for more updates.