Minotaur IV rocket lifts off at Wallops Island Flight Facility
WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. – All systems were go at Wallop’s Flight Facility Wednesday morning. A Minotaur IV rocket lifted off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Space Port pad 0B. “This is the first Space Force mission. This is the first dedicated NRO mission. But also I think it’s important because the team was able to overcome everything they’ve been dealing with,” said NASA Wallops Island spokesman Keith Koehler.
The rocket launch marks the first time the National Reconnaissance Office has flown a dedicated mission out of Wallops Island. The Minotaur four rocket carried a classified payload into Earth’s orbit – but the air force says those types of rockets are designed to carry satellites that capture clear images of the Earth’s surface. “Wallop’s flight facility allows us the ability to fly our space vehicle exactly where we want to fly it. So Wallop’s is the best fit for us,” said launch vehicle specialist Maj. Corey Crowell.
Nasa Wallops Island says one of the challenges they faced before the launch was figuring out how to have all hands on deck while staying safe from COVID-19. They tell 47ABC that the team had to wear masks and sanitize their hands. “The people coming to to control the mission will not be allowed in the control room itself. Typically you have people that are sitting side by side. Now we have to separate those out,” said Koehler.
Koehler says aside from the mission’s milestones achieved Wednesday – the launch provides a way for people to look to the skies and have hope for the Earth down below. “It’s just a boost, I think, also to the community. It shows that things are slowly returning to normal,” said Koehler.
The launch was slightly delayed because there were boaters in nearby water ways. But the team at Wallop’s was able to clear the area. Koehler says that that area is where some debris from the rocket falls into the water.
Koehler tells 47ABC that Wallops Island has several other launches lined up for the future, but the next one won’t happen earlier than mid-August.