WASHINGTON ― The National Reconnaissance Office, the Pentagon agency that designs, builds and operates U.S. spy satellites, said it launched the NROL-162 mission with a Rocket Lab Electron rocket on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.
NROL-162 is the first of two missions being conducted in quick succession and in coordination with the Australian Department of Defence, with which the NRO seeks to expand its competitiveness in intelligence gathering from space, it said in a statement. The other launch will be the NROL-199 is planned for July 22.
“The NRO works with allies and partners to identify and advance common goals,” Chris Scolese, director of NRO, said in the statement. “This collaboration with Australia bolsters our partnership and strengthens the foundation for future coordination as we work to secure and expand our intelligence advantage in a competitive space environment.”
The July 13 launch of NROL-162 highlights the importance of space in the larger national security strategy of the U.S. military. By launching multiple missions in a short time frame, the NRO said this demonstrates the speed and agility needed to innovate quickly ― and compete in space.
The NROL-162 launch carries a payload that was designed, built and will be operated by the NRO in consultation with the Australian Department of Defence. The mission will provide intelligence to more than half a million government users within the U.S. national security apparatus, which include all intelligence agencies, two dozen domestic agencies, the U.S. military and lawmakers, the statement said.
The NRO worked closely with the New Zealand Space Agency, which licensed the launch for the NROL-162. The launch services were acquired through NRO’s Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket contract.
“No launch can succeed without the talent and dedication of the people on the ground,” Chad Davis, NRO’s director of the Office of Space Launch, said. “The teams from Rocket Lab and the New Zealand Space Agency demonstrated outstanding skill and dedication in getting this mission into orbit, and I am confident they are up to the challenge of doing it again soon.”
Zamone “Z” Perez is an editorial fellow at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa, where he helped produce podcasts. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched humanitarian intervention and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.