Northrop Grumman has successfully launched the Tactically Responsive Launch-2 (TacRL-2) payload for the US Space Force (USSF) from Vandenberg Space Force Base, CA, the company announced on 13 June.
The TacRL concept seeks to introduce speed, agility and flexibility into the launch enterprise, in order to respond to dynamic changes in the space domain or an operational theatre, and to insert or replace assets on orbit much faster than standard timelines, to meet emerging combatant command requirements.
The launch was the 45th using Northrop Grumman’s PEGASUS – the world’s first privately-developed commercial space launch vehicle. The air-launched, solid-propellant, three-staged rocket is carried aloft by the company’s specially modified STARGAZER L-1011 aircraft. Shortly after release, at approximately 40,000ft above the Pacific, PEGASUS ignited its first stage, beginning TacRL-2’s transit to its intended orbit.
“This PEGASUS launch was a clear demonstration of our team’s ability to provide rapid and responsive operational needs,” commented Rich Straka, VP Launch Vehicles at Northrop Grumman. “Our team was able to execute the design, integration and testing of the TacRL-2 launch vehicle in less than four months from contract award.”
PEGASUS offers maximum responsiveness by enabling launch to a wide variety of orbits on short timelines. This capability provides customers with the flexibility to operate from virtually anywhere on Earth, with minimal ground support requirements. PEGASUS has launched more than 90 satellites into low earth orbit from five separate launch sites in the United States, Europe and the Marshall Islands.