WASHINGTON — The U.S. National Reconnaissance Office on Thursday launched its NROL-199 mission — the second of its kind in less than a month’s time.
“NRO has a long legacy of innovation, and launching two missions in less than one month from an overseas location is yet another example of our progress,” Col. Chad Davis, who leads the agency’s Office of Space Launch, said in a statement announcing the event.
The NROL-199 satellite mission, run in partnership with Australia’s Defence Department, was launched with a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from the Mahia Peninsula on New Zealand’s North Island. The event follows the NROL-166 mission, which launched July 13 from the same peninsula. The NRO did not specify the payload.
As initially planned, however, the two missions would have taken place in even quicker succession. The second launch was scheduled for July 22 — nine days after the first launch — but was delayed by two weeks, first because the NRO needed to update the payload software, and later because of strong winds.
The New Zealand Space Agency licensed the launch, and Rocket Lab, the private company that built the rocket, was the launch provider.
This summer’s NROL-166 and NROL-199 missions are the third and fourth Rocket Lab Electron launches from New Zealand, respectively, with two previous launches occurring Jan. 31, 2020, and June 13, 2020.
The NRO is a Pentagon agency that designs, builds and operates spy satellites.
Irene Loewenson is an editorial fellow at Military Times and Defense News. A native New Yorker, she is a recent graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.