Monday, June 7, 2021

Video: Navy and Boeing demonstrate air-to-air refueling using an unmanned aircraft

For the first time in history, the U.S. Navy and Boeing have demonstrated air-to-air refueling using an unmanned aircraft to refuel another aircraft.

During a test flight June 4, the Boeing-owned MQ-25 T1 test asset successfully extended the hose and drogue from its Navy-issued aerial refueling store and safely transferred jet fuel to a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet, demonstrating the MQ-25 Stingray's ability to carry out its primary aerial refueling mission.

"Over the next few years, we will work side-by-side with Boeing to deliver this capability that will greatly enhance the future carrier air wing,” said Navy Rear Adm. Brian Corey, who oversees the Program Executive Office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons.

During the initial part of the flight, the F/A-18 test pilot flew in close formation behind MQ-25 to ensure performance and stability prior to refueling – a maneuver that required as little as 20 feet of separation between the MQ-25 T1 air vehicle and the F/A-18 refueling probe. Both aircraft were flying at operationally relevant speeds and altitudes. With the evaluation safely completed, the MQ-25 drogue was extended, and the F/A-18 pilot moved in to "plug" with the unmanned aircraft and receive the scheduled fuel offload.

The MQ-25 T1 will continue flight testing prior to being shipped to Norfolk, Va., for deck handling trials aboard a Navy carrier later this year.

National security payload scheduled for launch from Virginia's Wallops Island

A Minotaur I rocket carrying three national security payloads for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is scheduled for launch June 15 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The launch vehicle, built and operated by Northrop Grumman, is scheduled for liftoff at 7:00 a.m. EDT from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s (MARS) Pad 0B on Wallops Island.

The launch may be visible along the U.S. east coast.

This mission, named NROL-111, will be the NRO’s second dedicated launch from Wallops in the last 12 months.

The NRO is a Department of Defense agency responsible for developing, acquiring, launching, and operating America’s intelligence satellites.

The 69-foot tall Minotaur I launch vehicle consists of two solid-fueled motors from decommissioned Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles as the lower stages and two solid-fueled commercial solid rocket motors as upper stages.

NROL-111 is the second Northrop Grumman orbital launch from the MARS launch pads in 2021. Minotaur rockets have been launched from Wallops for nearly 15 years.