Air Force Prepares to Launch Nine Small Missions in 2020

U.S. government focused subsidiary of Virgin Orbit, VOX Space, is set to launch STP-27VP from the island of Guam, in the Western Pacific. Lt. Col. Rose stated that this would be the Air Force's first space launch from Guam

Fremont, CA: The Air Force Space and Missile System Center's small launch division based at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, is preparing for the launch of nine small missions in the year of 2020, with two unidentified missions still under negotiation. It is exactly double the number of launches conducted in 2019. Lt. Col. Ryan Rose, chief of the small launch and targets division, part of SMC’s Launch Enterprise Systems Directorate, stated: "It will be a busy year.”

National Reconnaissance Mission NROL - 129 is set to fly in the spring of 2020, on a Northrop Grumman Minotaur 4 launch vehicle from Wallops Island, Virginia. Also during spring, Air Force Research Lab's experimental payload is scheduled to take off on a Rocket Lab Electron vehicle from the company’s new launch pad at Wallops Island. The experimental satellite, named Monolith, is an STP-27RM Space Test Program mission that shall be used for space weather research.

U.S. government focused subsidiary of Virgin Orbit, VOX Space, is set to launch STP-27VP from the island of Guam, in the Western Pacific. Lt. Col. Rose stated that this would be the Air Force's first space launch from Guam. VOX was awarded the contract under the Rapid Agile Launch Initiative (RALI), a USD 25 million congressional add-on appropriated in 2017 and 2018 for the Space Test Program and the Defense Innovation Unit. The payload will be delivered onboard LauncherOne rocket deployed from a Boeing 747.

Towards the latter half of 2020, a rideshare launch is scheduled for a yet to be determined Space Test Program satellites on a vehicle that has not yet been identified. "This will be a prototype rideshare mission to help the Air Force figure out new approaches to integrate payloads on a single launch," said Lt. Col. Rose. Space Vector is scheduled to launch a suborbital mission named Precise from Wallops Island in the fall of 2020, as part of an AFRL mission to test the readiness of space flight components for future orbital flights.

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