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ORS-5: SensorSat – Minotaur-4/Orion 38 – Канаверал SLC-46 – 26.08.2017, 03:14 UTC

Автор Salo, 13.02.2017 02:33:06

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Salo

13.02.2017 02:33:06 Последнее редактирование: 13.02.2017 02:35:08 от Salo
http://spaceflightnow.com/2017/02/12/teams-practice-for-cape-canaverals-first-launch-of-minotaur-4-rocket/
ЦитатаTeams practice for Cape Canaveral's first launch of Minotaur 4 rocket             
 February 12, 2017 Justin Ray
 
The pathfinder vehicle stands atop Complex 46, enclosed by the mobile gantry. Credit: Ben Cooper/Spaceflight Now

CAPE CANAVERAL -- Three inert Peacekeeper missile stages have been stacked at Cape Canaveral's Complex 46 pad, demonstrating the techniques that will be used to assemble a Minotaur 4 rocket to launch an experimental space surveillance satellite this summer.
Decommissioned Peacekeeper missiles form the basis for Minotaur 4 rockets, operated by Orbital ATK, and will deliver the majority of power to launch a small spacecraft, called SensorSat, into Earth orbit.
Launch is tentatively planned for July 15 at roughly 1 a.m. EDT (0500 GMT).
Known as the Operationally Responsive Space-5 mission, or ORS-5, it will be the first Minotaur launch fr om Cape Canaveral.
Officials say the Cape was chosen as the launch site because it is best suited to fly the special five-stage Minotaur 4 into the desired equatorial orbit.
The payload will circle the planet in low-Earth orbit to scan the valuable region of space 22,300 miles high -- the geosynchronous orbital belt -- to spot debris and warn against collisions.
Geosynchronous orbit is wh ere communications satellites, weather observatories and key reconnaissance platforms reside because that altitude allows the craft to fly continuously above the same part of the globe.
Many of the details about ORS-5 remain classified. But SensorSat will test technologies and reduce the risk for future space situational awareness missions.
The launch pad hosting this mission is Complex 46, a former Trident missile test site built in the 1980s for the U.S. Navy, then converted to spaceflight users in the 1990s and employed by Lockheed Martin to launch two Athena boosters including NASA's Lunar Prospector.
Space Florida, an arm of the state, now oversees the complex for commercial customers. It will be the first launch from the pad, which is on the easternmost tip of the Cape, in 18 years.
Five previous Minotaur 4 rockets have launched from Kodiak Island in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California since 2010.
The entire Minotaur family has conducted 25 missions since 2000, all successfully. Cape Canaveral will join Kodiak Island, Vandenberg and Wallops Island in Virginia as sites that have hosted launches.
Mission planners selected the Cape to launch SensorSat due to the plane change required en route to achieve the targeted orbit. A Wallops-based launch could not reach such an orbit with Minotaur 4, officials said.
 
The pathfinder vehicle stands atop Complex 46, enclosed by the mobile gantry. Credit: Ben Cooper/Spaceflight Now

The successful pathfinder operations at Complex 46 were completed Sunday and punctuated with a photo op for the news media. The inert stages will be destacked beginning Monday.
The real rocket for ORS-5 will be stacked beginning about three weeks before launch. That will be followed by a week-and-a-half of pre-flight testing.
Minotaur 4 will blast off on 500,000 pounds of thrust, propelling the 193,000-pound, 78-foot-tall rocket on a half-hour trip to orbit.
After the three Peacekeeper motors burn, two commercial upper stages deliver the final pushes to reach orbital velocity and then change planes to obtain the correct inclination for ORS-5.
"Были когда-то и мы рысаками!!!"

tnt22

https://spaceflightnow.com/2017/06/21/launch-of-militarys-new-space-based-satellite-tracker-delayed-two-months/
ЦитатаLaunch of military's new space-based satellite tracker delayed two months
June 21, 2017 Stephen Clark


File photo of a Minotaur 4 rocket on a launch pad in Alaska before a launch in September 2011. Credit: Stephen Clark/Spaceflight Now

The launch from Cape Canaveral of a small U.S. military satellite from built to track objects in geosynchronous orbit has been delayed from mid-July until September, an Air Force spokesperson said.
 Скрытый текст:
The Air Force did not disclose a reason for the two-month delay, or a new target launch date for the SensorSat mission. The spokesperson said the launch is now scheduled some time between the end of August and mid-September.

The microsatellite slated to lift off from Cape Canaveral on a Minotaur 4 rocket to locate and monitor movements of spacecraft and debris in geosynchronous orbit, a belt more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) over the equator populated by hundreds of commercial and military communications, missile warning, weather and reconnaissance satellites.

The blastoff was previously scheduled for July 15 from Complex 46, a rarely-used facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station that was last used for a launch in 1999. The launch facility is managed by Space Florida, a state economic development agency chartered to attract commercial space business to Florida.

SensorSat is being funded by the Air Force's Operationally Responsive Space office, a program set up in 2007 to investigate new contracting and development methods aimed at reducing the cost and time needed to deploy new satellites.

The ORS office, based at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, awarded a contract to Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory to design and built the SensorSat spacecraft. Orbital ATK's Minotaur 4 rocket, which uses decommissioned Peacekeeper missile stages for its initial boost into space, won a $23.6 million contract to launch the mission in 2015.

SensorSat is also called ORS-5 by the Air Force. It is the latest in a series of ORS missions that tested a new battlefield imager, a space-based data relay antenna for combat troops, and an autonomous rocket destruct mechanism similar to the one now used on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.

The ORS-5 launch will be the first flight of a Minotaur rocket from Cape Canaveral. Twenty-five previous Minotaur launches, employing retired Peacekeeper and Minuteman missile parts, have flown on suborbital and orbital missions from launch sites in Alaska, California and Virginia since 2000.

The Minotaur 4 rocket will place SensorSat in an orbit around 372 miles (600 kilometers) over the equator, employing an extra rocket motor to maneuver into the unusual orbit.

The Minotaur 4 usually comes with four stages -- three lower boosters culled from the military's Peacekeeper ballistic missile stockpiles, and a commercial Orion 38 upper stage to maneuver payloads into their final orbit.

For the ORS-5 launch, the Minotaur 4 rocket will use two Orion 38 upper stage motors. The final Orion 38 motor burn will reduce the angle of the ORS-5 satellite's orbit, redirecting the spacecraft to fly over the equator.

Some details of SensorSat's mission remain secret, but the satellite will be a gap-filler to provide geosynchronous tracking data to the military after the retirement of the Space Based Space Surveillance, or SBSS, satellite launched in 2010, which is nearing the end of its design life.

With a mass between 175 and 250 pounds (approximately 80 to 110 kilograms), SensorSat will collect "unresolved visible imagery of resident space objects in geosynchronous orbit from a novel low Earth orbit," according to information posted on Lincoln Laboratory's website.

A follow-on space surveillance satellite is scheduled for launch in the early 2020s.

tnt22


tnt22

Цитата Space Florida‏ @SpaceFlorida 19 мин. назад

Yesterday, LC-46 moved the MAS to the Launch Ready Configuration as part of the preparation for the @OrbitalATK Minotaur 4 launch on 8/25

Video

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tnt22

https://spaceflightnow.com/2017/08/04/build-up-begins-for-first-minotaur-rocket-launch-from-cape-canaveral/
ЦитатаBuild-up begins for first Minotaur rocket launch from Cape Canaveral
August 4, 2017 Stephen Clark


File photo of a Minotaur 4 rocket before a launch from Kodiak Island, Alaska. Credit: Stephen Clark/Spaceflight Now

Ground crews at a long-dormant launch pad at Cape Canaveral are stacking surplus military missile motors for the Aug. 25 launch of a Minotaur 4 rocket with a satellite designed to track orbital traffic thousands of miles above Earth.
 Скрытый текст:
The process to construct the Minotaur 4 rocket began with the hoisting of the launcher's first stage at pad 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The lower three solid-fueled stages of the Minotaur 4 come from the Air Force's stockpile of decommissioned Peacekeeper missiles deployed in the 1980s to hurl nuclear weapons to targets around the world.

A spokesperson for Orbital ATK, which operates the Minotaur family in agreement with the U.S. Air Force, confirmed stacking of the Minotaur 4 booster recently started at Cape Canaveral.

Liftoff is set for Aug. 25 at 11:15 p.m. EDT (0315 GMT on Aug. 26), the opening of a four-hour launch window.

The Minotaur 4 is typically made of four stages -- the three Peacekeeper motors and an additional commercial Orion 38 solid rocket on top -- to send military satellites into orbit. Minotaur 4 variants have launched payloads into orbit on three occasions from Kodiak Island, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and a shortened three-stage version has launched two times on suborbital missions.

The build-up of the next Minotaur 4 rocket at launch pad 46 should be complete by mid-August, along with the attachment of SensorSat, a microsatellite designed to locate and monitor movements of spacecraft and debris in geosynchronous orbit, a belt more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) over the equator.

SensorSat will go into a unique equatorial orbit at an altitude of around 372 miles (600 kilometers). The mission's unusual equator-hugging orbit required engineers to add an additional Orion 38 upper stage, making the Minotaur 4 set to launch later this month a five-stage booster.

The final Orion 38 motor burn will reduce the angle of the ORS-5 satellite's orbit, redirecting the spacecraft to fly over the equator.


This illustration of SensorSat is the only one released by the Air Force. Many details about the mission remain secret. Credit: U.S. Air Force

Some details of SensorSat's mission remain secret, but the satellite will be a gap-filler to provide geosynchronous tracking data to the military after the retirement of the Space Based Space Surveillance, or SBSS, satellite launched in 2010, which is nearing the end of its design life.

A follow-on space surveillance satellite is scheduled for launch in the early 2020s.

SensorSat is funded by the Air Force's Operationally Responsive Space office, a division established in 2007 to seek less expensive ways to field satellites and launch opportunities for the military. The Air Force also calls the space surveillance mission ORS-5, and the spacecraft was developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory.

With a mass between 175 and 250 pounds (approximately 80 to 110 kilograms), SensorSat will collect "unresolved visible imagery of resident space objects in geosynchronous orbit from a novel low Earth orbit," according to information posted on Lincoln Laboratory's website.

Pad 46 last hosted a space launch in 1999, when a Lockheed Martin Athena rocket took off with an experimental Taiwanese satellite. Located on the easternmost tip of Cape Canaveral, the launch pad was dormant until Space Florida, a state government agency set up to lure commercial aerospace business to the Sunshine State, took over the facility and brokered the deal to bring Orbital ATK's Minotaur rocket to the Space Coast.

Technicians partially assembled an inert Minotaur 4 rocket at pad 46 earlier this year to rehearse stacking procedures.

tnt22


tnt22

http://www.orbitalatk.com/news-room/feature-stories/MinotaurIV_ORS5_Mission-Page/default.aspx
Цитата
Mission Update: Minotaur IV ORS-5 Launch


Launch: August 25, 2017 11:14 p.m. EDT
Launch Site:SLC-46, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Mission Customer:United States Air Force


Mission Update

Orbital ATK will launch a Minotaur IV rocket carrying the ORS-5 satellite for the United States Air Force on Friday, August 25, 2017 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch window will be open from 11:14 p.m. EDT August 25 to 3:15 a.m. EDT August 26.

Watch the live broadcast on www.orbitalatk.com beginning approximately 20 minutes before launch.

Minotaur Mission Trajectory


About the Mission

Orbital ATK's Minotaur IV space launch vehicle will launch the ORS-5 mission for the U.S. Air Force as a part of the Orbital/Suborbital Program-3 (OSP-3) contract. ORS-5, also known as SensorSat, is designed to scan for other satellites and debris to aid the U.S. military's tracking of objects in geosynchronous orbit. For the ORS-5 launch, the Minotaur IV will use two Orion 38 upper stage motors. The final Orion 38 motor burn will reduce the angle of the ORS-5 satellite's orbit, redirecting the spacecraft to equatorial orbit.

More Information

 Minotaur IV Fact Sheet
 ORS-5 Fact Sheet
 Minotaur Webpage
 Minotaur Mission History

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tnt22


Старый

Куда это мы летим? На геостационар, чтоли?  :o
1. Ангара - единственный в истории мировой космонавтики случай когда новая ракета по всем параметрам хуже старой. (с) Старый Ламер
2. Всё что связано с Ангарой подчинено единственной задаче - выкачать из бюджета и распилить как можно больше денег.
3. Чем мрачнее реальность тем ярче бред.

itwik


tnt22

Цитата Los Angeles Air Force Base, Home of Space and Missile Systems Center добавил(-а) 5 новых фото.
17 августа в 17:49 ·

Air Force, mission partners prepare satellite for August launch

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center's Operationally Responsive Space Office completed a major program milestone after overseeing the successful delivery of their ORS-5 satellite from Lexington, Massachusetts to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida for final processing, encapsulation, stacking and integration for launch.
 Скрытый текст:
The ORS-5 satellite is scheduled for launch Aug. 25 at 11:15 p.m. EDT from Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

"The delivery and upcoming launch of ORS-5 marks a significant milestone in fulfilling our commitment to the space situational awareness mission and U.S. Strategic Command," said Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center and Air Force program executive officer for Space. "It's an important asset for the warfighter and will be employed for at least three years."

Upon its delivery, the ORS-5 satellite, also known as SensorSat, was processed for encapsulation in the Astrotech Space Operations Florida processing facility.

A combined government and contractor team of mission partners executed final ground activities including a Launch Base Compatibility Test to verify satellite integrity after shipment, an intersegment test to verify communication compatibility from the satellite to the on-orbit operations center and the final battery reconditioning for launch, prior to its integration with the Minotaur IV launch vehicle.

"This is my first launch as the ORS director, and I am thrilled to see this mission get one step closer to operational capability," said Col. Shahnaz Punjani, director of the Operationally Responsive Space Office at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. "As a former launch group commander, it is also very exciting to be part of the first Minotaur launch from Cape Canaveral. Our partners at the 45th Space Wing, Orbital ATK, and Space Florida did a tremendous job restoring Launch Complex 46 to active service and preparing it for this launch."

The satellite was transported from the MIT Lincoln Laboratory facility in Lexington, Massachusetts, in a customized shipping container. The transport crew ensured the satellite was transported safely and according to the time sensitive schedule.

"The safe transport, processing and integration of ORS-5 to the Minotaur IV launch vehicle was paramount and the total government and contractor team worked tirelessly to ensure mission success," Thompson reiterated.

Air Force Space Command's Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., is the U.S. Air Force's center of acquisition excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes the Global Positioning System, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space based infrared systems and space situational awareness capabilities.

 ###

NOTE TO EDITORS: Media representatives can submit questions for response regarding this topic by sending an e-mail to smcpa.media@us.af.mil
#ORS #ORS5 #MinotaurIV #SMC #LAAFB #AFSPC #USAF








instml

ЦитатаСтарый пишет:
Куда это мы летим? На геостационар, чтоли?  :o
Масса спутника всего 100 кг - вот она, цена выхода на низкую орбиту с наклонением в 0 градусов.
Go MSL!

tnt22

http://www.vandenberg.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1282070/1st-asts-provides-critical-support-for-minotaur-launch-at-cape/
Цитата1st ASTS provides critical support for Minotaur launch at Cape

By Senior Airman Ian Dudley, 30th Space Wing Public Affairs / Published August 17, 2017

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
The 1st Air and Space Test Squadron at Vandenberg Air Force Base will be assisting with the first ever Minotaur IV launch fr om Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The 1st ASTS team coordinated the transport for the first three stages of the engine to Cape Canaveral AFS where they will provide support through the day of launch.

The Minotaur IV is an expendable launch system derived from an old Peacekeeper Intercontinental Ballistic Missile.
 Скрытый текст:
"We have specialized equipment here, wh ere we stack the Minotaur and make sure they are good to go," said Capt. Julian Martinez, 1st ASTS mission integrator. "The upcoming launch at Canaveral is a Minotaur IV vehicle, which is an old peacekeeper system. There are five stages, and the DoD owns the first three. We are the only Air Force blue suit team that is able to maintain, ship and handle all of these rocket components. When we are out there we always get referred to as 'the Air Force guys', because we are the only uniformed personnel that have a direct impact on ground operations."
 
As the only unit in the Air Force that can stack and transport the Minotaur IV, the 1 ASTS utilizes experienced missile maintainers on a space assignment.

"As a unit we rely heavily on the missile maintainers that have prior experience in the missile fields," said Brian Tafoya, 1st ASTS flight chief. "Even though we are now on the space launch side of the house, we are able to use the knowledge of the ICBM delivery systems to ensure we do our part in the launch process. It is a bit different than what we are used to. Instead of loading a missile into a silo we get to stack it on a launch pad. Our ICBM experience translates directly into the small space lift mission and is a pretty unique experience."

The primary responsibility of the 1st ASTS is to ensure the launch vehicle is processed and stacked for a successful mission.

"For this upcoming launch from the Cape, we shipped the first three stages out about a month before the projected launch date," said Martinez. "After the boosters arrive in Florida, we coordinate with the 45th Space Wing to use their cranes to load the boosters onto Minotaur specific trucks called Type-II's, for convoy to the launch pad. After all three stages are stacked on the launch pad, we hand custody off to the launch service provider, Orbital ATK. Stage four and five are owned by Orbital ATK and include the payload, avionics, and instrumentation."

With a low launch tempo for the Minotaur family of vehicles, the 1st ASTS team is constantly training.  This prevents future discrepancies and maintains currency.

"We don't launch a lot of these, so one of the ways we stay ready for a real operation is by practicing," said Martinez. "We run through procedures and talk with quality assurance, keeping everything up to date. This mission will launch August 25th from Cape Canaveral AFS is a pretty monumental event for the whole squadron. The team will be traveling to watch the launch, and perform post-launch equipment recovery."

The team may be small, but what they lack in numbers they make up for in dedication and expertise.
 
"When we conduct an operation like this, from cradle to grave, it gives us a sense of pride," said Tafoya. "We have maintained a mission ready posture and now have a chance to prove what we can do. It is always a challenge to stay consistent across a few year gap between missions, but we do, and when we have a Minotaur launch we are mission ready."

tnt22


tnt22

http://www.losangeles.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1283230/ors-5-satellite-prepped-for-launch/
ЦитатаORS-5 satellite prepped for launch

SMC Public Affairs / Published August 18, 2017

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
With a Flight Readiness Review successfully concluded Aug. 17, the Air Force's Operational Responsive Space (ORS)-5 satellite is now ready for its journey to equatorial orbit fr om Space Launch Complex-46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. It is scheduled for launch on Aug. 25 during a four-hour launch window that opens at 11:15 p.m., EDT, after being stacked and mated atop a five-stage Orbital ATK Minotaur IV launch vehicle.

ORS-5, also known as SensorSat, was encapsulated Aug. 11 at the Astrotech Space Operations Florida processing facility in preparation for its upcoming launch. Encapsulation of ORS-5 marked the satellite's completion of all major testing prior to transfer to LC-46. The stacking of the Minotaur IV launch vehicle and integration events on the launch pad with the payload are significant milestones in ORS-5's launch progress.
 Скрытый текст:
At $87.5 million ($49 million satellite, $11.3 million ground system, $27.2 million launch), ORS-5, also known as SensorSat, measures about five feet long and two and a half feet wide and weighs about 250 pounds (113 kg). The satellite will be placed into a low earth orbit approximately 372 miles (599 kilometers) at zero degrees inclination for test and checkout.

It will remain in that orbit over a three-year design life to aid the U.S. military's tracking of other satellites and space debris in geosynchronous orbit, 22,236 miles above the equator, commonly used by defense-related communications satellites, television broadcasting stations, and international space platforms. ORS-5 will deliver space situational awareness capabilities at a significantly reduced cost compared to larger, more complex satellites, and serves as a gap filler mission for the Space-Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) Block 10 mission, originally launched in 2010. A successor SBSS mission is not expected to launch before 2021.

This satellite's payload has one optical sensor that provides continuous, un-cued, rapid GEO belt search to detect changes and provide precise regional awareness. The sensors were built by the MIT LL in June of 2016, wh ere they began integration with the bus. The fully integrated spacecraft went through several levels of testing to ensure its launch and mission readiness. The testing included subcomponent, component, and full satellite comprehensive functional testing, vibration testing, thermal vacuum testing, final integrated systems testing and factory compatibility testing.

These tests all provided a high level of confidence for the satellite's ability to successfully perform its mission.

Air Force Space Command's Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., is the U.S. Air Force's center of acquisition excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems.  Its portfolio includes the Global Positioning System, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space based infrared systems and space situational awareness capabilities.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Media representatives can submit questions for response regarding this topic by sending an e-mail to //smcpa.media@us.af.mil

SPECIAL NOTICE: Due to launch pad safety restrictions, there will be no remote camera setup opportunities available for media at LC-46. However, media wishing to view the nighttime launch of ORS-5/Minotaur IV from the 5th Space Launch Squadron at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station have until Monday, Aug. 21 to submit name and affiliation to //smcpa.media@us.af.mil for coordination with the 45th Space Wing Public Affairs office. 45 SW/PA requires three working days to process access list for controlled escort of media onto CCAFS.



tnt22

Цитата Spaceflight Now‏ @SpaceflightNow 3 мин. назад

Ground crews at Cape Canaveral assemble souped-up Cold War-era missile for satellite launch next Friday night. https://spaceflightnow.com/2017/08/19/assembly-complete-for-minotaur-launcher-at-cape-canaveral/ ...

https://spaceflightnow.com/2017/08/19/assembly-complete-for-minotaur-launcher-at-cape-canaveral/
ЦитатаAssembly complete for Minotaur launcher at Cape Canaveral
August 19, 2017 Stephen Clark

Using industrial cranes at a no-frills launch pad on the eastern tip of Cape Canaveral, a team of Orbital ATK and U.S. Air Force technicians have fully stacked a modified Cold War-era missile set for launch next week with a $49 million satellite built to track other objects in orbit.

The Minotaur 4 rocket, made up of five solid-fueled stages, is scheduled to fire into space fr om pad 46 at Cape Canaveral next Friday night, Aug. 25, at 11:15 p.m. EDT (0315 GMT on Aug. 26).
 Скрытый текст:

A view of pad 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where crews have stacked a Minotaur 4 rocket for launch Aug. 25. Credit: Orbital ATK

The mission has a four-hour window to lift off, or else wait until another day.

The spacecraft closed up inside the Minotaur 4's nose cone is named SensorSat. Developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory, the Air Force-funded mission will spend three years scanning orbital traffic lanes, detecting and tracking satellites and space debris in a belt nearly 22,300 miles (35,800 kilometers) over the equator.

Objects at that altitude remain over fixed geographic positions on Earth, making geostationary orbit an ideal location for military and commercial communications satellites, weather observatories, and intelligence-gathering spy craft.

SensorSat is managed by the Air Force's Operationally Responsive Space division, an office established in 2007 to investigate lower-cost satellites and launchers. The Air Force calls the mission ORS-5, the latest in a line of projects aimed at testing out new satellite and launch innovations.

"The delivery and upcoming launch of ORS-5 marks a significant milestone in fulfilling our commitment to the space situational awareness mission and U.S. Strategic Command," said Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center and Air Force program executive officer for space. "It's an important asset for the warfighter and will be employed for at least three years."

Next week's nighttime blastoff will mark the first Minotaur launch from Cape Canaveral. Five Minotaur 4 rockets have launched on suborbital and orbital missions since 2010 from sites in California and Alaska.


File photo of a previous Minotaur 4 launch from Alaska. Credit: Orbital ATK/William G. Hartenstein

The three main rocket motors that will power the Minotaur 4 into space came from stockpiles left over from the Air Force's retired nuclear-tipped Peacekeeper missiles. The rocket motors were filled with pre-packed solid fuel in the 1980s, then placed on alert in missile silos until the military decommissioned the Peacekeeper.

Two commercially-produced Orion 38 rocket motors built by Orbital ATK, the company charged with operating the Minotaur, will do the extra lifting to place SensorSat into orbit.

The Minotaur 4 usually flies with a single Orion 38 motor as a fourth stage, but SensorSat's unusual orbit requires another boost.

The fifth stage motor will give the relatively small 249-pound (113-kilogram) SensorSat satellite a kick into an equator-hugging orbit at an altitude of approximately 372 miles (600 kilometers) at zero degrees inclination.

The Air Force paid $27.2 million for the launch, opting for a commercial-like launch service to keep costs to a minimum. Orbital ATK considered basing the launch from a Minotaur pad at Wallops Island, Virginia, but the site is too far north to reach the equatorial orbit needed on the ORS-5 mission.

Another option Orbital ATK briefly considered was setting up a temporary Minotaur launch pad at the European-run spaceport in French Guiana, just north of the equator, but Cape Canaveral eventually became the best choice once engineers devised a way to add another rocket motor on top of the Minotaur 4.

Ground crews at pad 46 topped off the Minotaur rocket Tuesday with the addition of the SensorSat satellite and the Orion 38 fifth stage motor already closed up inside the launcher's nose shroud.

The first four stages of the Minotaur 4 will fire in quick succession in the first 15 minutes of the flight to climb into a preliminary parking orbit between around 248 miles and 372 miles (400 to 600 kilometers) above Earth. That temporary orbit will have a tilt of approximately 24.5 degrees to the equator.


The SensorSat, or ORS-5, satellites prepares for thermal vacuum testing. Credit: MIT Lincoln Laboratory

During the 10-minute coast until ignition of the fifth stage motor, the Minotaur will release two CubeSats for an undisclosed U.S. government agency, and a three-unit shoebox-sized CubeSat for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

Seattle-based Spaceflight made arrangements for the CubeSats launching on the Minotaur 4.

The Minotaur's last firing will last a little over a minute.

"The way to think of that fifth stage is it's an insertion stage," said Phil Joyce, vice president of small launch programs at Orbital ATK. "We used the standard Minotaur 4 to put us in a parking orbit ... And then that fifth stage Orion 38 is there to circularize and to do the plane change down to equatorial."

With stacking of the Minotaur 4 now complete, attention turns to testing the rocket.

"Now we're in the process of our post-stack verification tests," said Terry Luchi, Orbital ATK's Minotaur program manager. "This is wh ere we'll go through a series of avionics tests and verify that everything is still playing as expected."

A full mission dress rehearsal with the pad team and launch controllers is scheduled for Monday. The rest of the week leading up to launch day will be spent installing ordnance and preparing to arm the vehicle.

Luchi said the Minotaur team had to work around a busy launch manifest at Cape Canaveral. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket took off last Monday, Aug. 14, and a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 booster launched Friday.

"This is the first time that we'll take Minotaur out of the Cape. We have some experience in the past on other vehicles, but bringing Minotaur to the Cape obviously presents some challenges," Luchi said in an interview with Spaceflight Now.

Orbital ATK is preparing the Minotaur 4 for launch at pad 46, a rarely-used facility operated by Space Florida, the state government agency chartered to lure commercial aerospace business to the area. The last launch from pad 46 occurred in 1999.

The Minotaur launch team raised three inert Peacekeeper stages at pad 46 earlier this year in a pathfinder test to familiarize themselves with the ground facilities and verify their compatibility.

The Air Force-run Eastern Range is also getting acquainted with the Minotaur for the first time.

While there are no more Minotaur missions from Cape Canaveral on Orbital ATK's manifest, Luchi said the experience gained on the ORS-5 campaign could set the stage for future Florida-based flights.

"I think we're done with this one time (at Cape Canaveral), it's going to be all that much easier in the future," Luchi said.

Orbital ATK has one more Minotaur 1 launch in its backlog from Wallops Island, Virginia, in late 2018. That flight, using a smaller version of the Minotaur based on retired Minuteman missile stages, will loft a classified spacecraft for the National Reconnaissance Office.

Joyce said Orbital ATK anticipates future Minotaur launch contracts from the U.S. government for small-class satellites. Because they use government-furnished rocket motors, the Minotaur 1 and 4 families are restricted from competing for commercial launch awards, a U.S. government policy that has drawn the ire of Orbital ATK, which sees privately-owned satellites in the Minotaur's lift envelope, including many U.S. payloads, going up on Indian, Russian and European launchers.

Proponents of the policy say that selling already-built missile motors into the commercial launch market would dampen innovation and keep new companies from introducing commercial rockets.

Several companies are working on commercial small satellite launch vehicles. Some have major strides, including a full-up test flight in the case of the U.S.-New Zealand company Rocket Lab, but none have successfully placed a payload into orbit.