The National Reconnaissance Office, which has operated U.S. spy satellites for more than six decades, has a new spacecraft in orbit following a successful mission by Rocket Lab Tuesday night.
Dubbed “Wise One Looks Ahead,” the mission blasted off from Rocket Lab’s New Zealand launch complex Pad A at 11:30 p.m. PDT Tuesday night, which was 6:30 a.m. UTC Wednesday. The firm’s Electron rocket delivered the National Reconnaissance Office’s NROL-162 satellite to orbit an hour later.
In partnership with the Australian Department of Defense, the satellite will provide “critical information to the United States Government’s agencies and allies and national security decision makers monitoring and responding to world events and humanitarian issues,” according to the company.
NROL-162 is the 148th satellite Rocket Lab has delivered to space over 27 missions since its first launch in January 2018.
The mission comes just over two weeks after Rocket Lab successfully launched NASA’s CAPSTONE satellite into space. After orbiting the Earth 37 times over six days attached to the firm’s Lunar Photon spacecraft, the satellite was sent hurtling toward the moon where it will enter a unique orbit in several months.
Previously, Rocket Lab successfully delivered a pair of national security satellites to space for the NRO in January and June 2022.
“Wise One Looks Ahead” was the first of back-to-back Rocket Lab missions for the NRO. NROL-199 is slated to take off from the firm’s launch complex Pad B in New Zealand on July 22, the fastest turnaround time in company history.
“The successful deployment of NROL-162 to orbit is another fantastic achievement by the Rocket Lab team, but we’re not resting on our laurels,” founder and CEO Craig Beck said. “No other small launch provider has ever before prepared a dedicated launch for a small national security payload in such a rapid turnround, and our sights are set on delivering the next NRO mission to space in record-time.”