Rocket Lab USA, Inc. [RKLB] said that it is ready for the scheduled July 12 launch of a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) payload aboard a Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s North Island.

The NRO mission, NROL-162, is nicknamed “Wise One Looks Ahead.”

“The launch operations team has completed a clear run through the ‘Wise One Looks Ahead’ launch rehearsal after the NROL-162 satellite was successfully mated to Electron at Launch Complex 1,” Rocket Lab said on July 10. “The mission will be deployed from the Electron rocket’s Kick Stage, the low Earth orbit configuration of the rocket’s upper stage that was recently used to successfully deliver NASA’s CAPSTONE satellite on its mission to the moon.”

Ten days after the launch of NROL-162, another Electron rocket is to loft an NRO payload into orbit on the NROL-199, “Antipodean Adventure” mission.

Such responsive launch may prove useful to meeting national security breadth of coverage requirements and as a backup, if a critical U.S. satellite sustains damage and becomes inoperable.

“The NROL-162 and NROL-199 missions will carry national security payloads designed, built, and operated by the National Reconnaissance Office in partnership with the Australian Department of Defence as part of a broad range of cooperative satellite activities with Australia,” Rocket Lab said on July 10.

“The satellites will support the NRO to provide critical information to government agencies and decision makers monitoring international issues including the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, as well as international drug traffickers and criminal organizations; support international peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations; and assess the impact of natural disasters,” per Rocket Lab.

Last week, Rocket Lab said that it had created a Responsive Space Program

to open a direct line of communication with satellite operators to understand their mission requirements and then develop customized responsive mission plans that could be executed within a day of a satellite arriving at a launch site (Defense Daily, July 7).

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill believe that responsive commercial satellites and commercial launches could help the U.S. military reconstitute constellations of military satellites when adversaries disrupt their functions during conflicts or before them (Defense Daily, July 26, 2021).

U.S. Space Force and the NRO are increasingly using commercial satellites to provide a breadth of coverage and to ensure that an adversary is unable to disable U.S. infrastructure and leave military forces, intelligence agencies, and national leaders in the dark.