Clad in a yellow thermal blanket that will peel away at liftoff, a 69-foot-tall (21-meter) Minotaur 1 rocket is standing on a launch pad at Wallops Island, Virginia, ready to deliver three small National Reconnaissance Office spacecraft to orbit.
The four-stage, solid-fueled rocket is set for liftoff from pad 0B at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport run by the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority. The spaceport is co-located with NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, which runs the launch range.
Pad 0B is positioned about a quarter-mile (400 meters) south of pad 0A, the base for Antares rocket launches to resupply the International Space Station.
The Minotaur 1 rocket’s two lower stages are surplus motors taken from stockpiles of decommissioned Minuteman ballistic missiles. The yellow thermal blanket, sometimes called the “banana,” will rapidly peel off the rocket in sections when the first stage ignites to power the Minotaur 1 off the pad with more than 200,000 pounds of thrust.
The rocket is fitted with a 61-inch-diameter (1.55-meter) payload shroud, which will protect the three NRO spy satellite payloads during the first few minutes of flight through the atmosphere. The fairing will jettison after the Minotaur 1 reaches space.
See our Mission Status Center for more coverage of the NROL-111 mission.
These photos were taken June 10 during a mission dress rehearsal, when the mobile gantry at the launch pad was rolled back to reveal the Minotaur 1 rocket.
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