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US Space Force launches first SRP-4 experimental payload

Terrier-Terrier-Oriole sounding rocket
A Terrier-Terrier-Oriole sounding rocket launches from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on March 3, 2021. Photo: US Space Force

The US Space Force and the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Enterprise have launched an experimental research payload for the Air Force Research Laboratory.

The payload was carried by a Terrier-Terrier-Oriole sounding rocket, which took off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on March 3.

According to the the US Space Force, the successful mission was full of many firsts for SMC’s Small Launch and Targets Division.

In addition to being the first USSF small launch mission for 2021, the event marked the first AFRL dedicated partnership launch from WFF, the first sounding rocket launch under the Sounding Rocket Program-4 contract, and the first USSF sounding rocket launch with Space Vector Corporation.

The TTO vehicle was built by Space Vector, a small business, and Kratos Space and Missile Defense who were responsible for the integration, interface and mission planning for the launch. The US Air Force awarded Space Vector and Orbital ATK a contract worth up to $424 million for work under the program in December 2018.

“This mission is a great example of the innovation in SMC contracting and using Small Launch contracts to expand our capability and provide support in launching experimental missions,” stated Lt. Col. Ryan Rose, chief of the Launch Enterprise’s Small Launch and Targets Division and Mission Director for today’s launch. “Congratulations to the entire government and industry team on successfully executing this important mission, and launching in only 16 months from contract award during the challenging conditions presented this past year.”

The USSF’s SMC, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, Calif., is the center of excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. SMC’s portfolio includes space launch, global positioning systems, military satellite communications, a defense meteorological satellite control network, range systems, space-based infrared systems, and space domain awareness capabilities.