Thursday, February 03, 2011

NRO pathfinder satellite scheduled to launch Saturday

The Minotaur rocket's lower assembly, composed of retired Minuteman missile stages, is stacked on the launch pad. Credit: U.S. Air Force

The U.S. military plans to launch a Minotaur rocket Saturday with a secret technology research mission for the National Reconnaissance Office, the government agency that oversees the country's spy satellites.

The solid-fueled Orbital Sciences Corp. Minotaur 1 launcher is scheduled to lift off some time Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The launch window is a secret for now, but the Air Force plans to announce a time for the blastoff sometime this evening.

The NRO is keeping quiet on the mission's specifics, but the agency says it is part of a science and technology development effort to lay the groundwork for future systems.

The satellite is known as RPP, which stands for the Rapid Pathfinder Program. The launch is codenamed NROL-66 in the spy agency's rocket acquisition naming system.

The Minotaur rocket will travel south from the California coast, according to a notice to pilots released Wednesday. Launches flying south from Vandenberg usually deploy payloads in polar orbits used by Earth observation satellites.

The 62-foot-tall rocket will launch from Space Launch Complex 8 in the southern part of Vandenberg.

Full article on this launch on the Spaceflight website at

For my west coast readers try monitoring the following UHF aero freqs during the launch:

225.0750 225.6500 229.5500 231.4000 239.1250 251.9000 256.0000 266.0000 281.8000 284.1000 308.9000 319.6000 324.6500 325.1000 327.4000 336.0000 337.6000 349.1000 349.3000 351.3000 354.3000 375.4000 375.5000 378.0500 384.8500 386.6000 386.6000 MHz (AM mode)

On the LMR side of things the following repeater outputs (NFM mode): 386.2875 (reportedly used for count down net) 386.3000 386.5000 MHz

Of course there are many more freqs including the Vandenberg Trunk Radio System, but these are some new freqs I have uncovered and could use some feedback on these freqs.