Skip to main content

Watch a Minotaur 1 rocket launch a classified US spy satellite today

Update for 7 a.m. EDT: NASA's Wallops Flight Facility and the NRO are now targeting 9:35 a.m. EDT (1335 GMT) for today's NROL-111 launch on a Minotaur 1 rocket. NASA's webcast will begin at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT).


Northrop Grumman is set to launch a Minotaur 1 rocket early Tuesday morning (June 15), and you can watch the action live online. 

The flight, called NROL-111, will blast off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) Pad 0B at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia at 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT). NASA will broadcast live coverage of the mission beginning at 6:30 a.m. EDT (1030 GMT), and you can watch it live in the window above and on YouTube, courtesy of NASA Wallops.  

The four-stage Minotaur 1 rocket, standing 69 feet (21 meters) tall, will haul three different payloads into space for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) — the agency that oversees the nation's fleet of spy satellites. 

Related: Spectacular Minotaur 1 rocket night launch photos by stargazers

A visibility map for the launch of the NROL-111 mission, which will be visible along much of the U.S. East Coast if weather permits. (Image credit: NASA)

The rocket has the capability to launch payloads of up to 1,278 lbs. (580 kilograms) into low Earth orbit, according to Northrop Grumman's website, and has conducted 11 missions with a 100% success rate, carrying a total of 62 satellites into orbit to date.

Unlike its namesake, the mythological beast that is half-man and half-bull, the Minotaur 1 launcher consists of two solid-fueled motors from decommissioned Minuteman ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) as its lower stages and two solid-fueled commercial solid rocket motors as upper stages.

The U.S. Space Force's Space and Missile Systems Center is providing the launch services for this mission, named NROL-111. It will be the third U.S. Space Force mission and the NRO's second dedicated launch from Wallops in the last 12 months.

A Minotaur 1 rocket stands ready to launch the NROL-111 mission on Pad 0B at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia. (Image credit: NASA)

"The eyes and the ears for the defense of this nation and critical capabilities for our warfighters are delivered on the launch vehicles that we process within the launch enterprise," Col. Ryan Rose said June 10 during a prelaunch press briefing for the mission.

NROL-111 is the second Northrop Grumman orbital launch from this MARS launch pad in 2021; however, Minotaur rockets have been launched from Wallops for more than a decade. (A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket blasted off in February, carrying a Cygnus spacecraft full of research and supplies for the International Space Station.) 

The launch continues a busy year for Wallops, which has several additional launches scheduled through the summer and fall months — including a second Antares flight in August. 

Residents up and down the East Coast may be able to see the launch if weather permits.

Follow Amy Thompson on Twitter @astrogingersnap. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.