A Northrop Grumman L-1011 carrier aircraft took off from the new Vandenberg Space Force Base and flew over the Pacific Ocean, where it launched the Pegasus XL solid-fuel rocket carrying the new satellite at 4:11 a.m. EDT (1:11 a.m. am PDT / 0811 GMT). Vandenberg officials confirmed the launch’s success in a statement on Facebook.The mission is called Tactically Responsive Launch-2 (TacRL-2) and has been part of an Air Force recognized program since at least 2019. In its biennial report that year, the Air Force said that its rocket systems launch program “develops responsive launch capability” by awarding Pegasus XL rocket launches to Northrop Grumman.
“Team V successfully launched the Tactically Responsive Launch-2 mission. A demonstration of speed, agility and flexibility in space launch, ”Vandenberg officials wrote in a statement. “Showing that space assets can be brought into orbit faster than standard time frames, this launch showcases the talent, dedication and flexibility of Team V.” Space Force and Northrop Grumman did not provide a live webcast of the launch.
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As of 2019, program requirements state that Northrop Grumman must be ‘ready for vehicle launch’ in four months and then put the launcher on standby ‘with a 21-day launch capability,’ the Air Force added. in the biennial report.
TacRL-2 and other such launches are part of Space Force’s drive to offer smaller, more flexible launch services, known as “reactive launch”. The mission was built by Space Safari, a new military entity that “meets urgent, high priority space needs” through a rapid acquisition and execution process, according to Space Force.
“Space Safari’s initial mission is to plan, acquire and deliver specialized space capability with the ability to integrate and launch just weeks after a ‘Go! “Order,” Col. Dennis Bythewood, director of special programs, said in a Space Force statement Thursday (June 10) announcing the creation of a Space Safari program office.
“Where most space vehicles take years to deliver and where launches are also planned years in advance, this ability to integrate and launch quickly will result in significantly improved capabilities,” Bythewood added. .
Space Safari was modeled after a rapid response Air Force group dubbed “Big Safari”, and more correctly known as the 645th Aeronautical Systems Group. Big Safari was founded in 1952 to centralize the Air Force’s covert surveillance during the Cold War, according to the US Air Force.
General John Raymond, chief of space operations for the Space Force, spoke about Space Safari’s mandate during a Council on Foreign Relations webcast on Thursday (June 10), SpaceNews reported.
“A year ago I challenged our acquisition organization to develop a capability within the tactical timeline, integrate it into a launch vehicle and launch it, and let’s see how quickly we can do that. Raymond said, adding, “In less than a year, they took satellite components off the shelf, paired them with a satellite bus that was off the shelf, and put them together in a space domain knowledge satellite. “
Northrop Grumman was awarded the launch contract as part of a nearly $ 1 billion nine-year procurement program from 2019 known as Orbital Services Program-4, SpaceNews added. Procurement allows task orders for specific needs; Federal contract information shows that the Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center awarded Northrop Grumman the TacRL-2 task order in July 2020, according to SpaceFlightNow.
In February, Space Force issued a new supply request for tactical response successor launch proposals, including TacRL-3 in April 2022 and TacRL-4 in February 2023. Space Force also hinted at supply. in his press release on Thursday.
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