Following a almost 3 hour delay due to day long dismal weather causing locally heavy rain storms and lighting in central Florida, an Orbital ATK Minotaur IV rocket carrying the ORS-5 tracking satellite for the USAF finally lifted off in the wee hours Saturday morning, August 26 at 2:04 a.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Illuminating the night sky with a brilliant splash of fire; an Orbital ATK Minotaur 4 rocket, carrying the surveillance satellite of U.S. Military, the ORS-5 Satellite penetrated into the sky in early Saturday.
The rocket’s first stage ignited at 2:04 a.m. (EDT). After 10 minutes of the igniting of the fourth one, the fifth stage of the rocket propelled to circularize the flight path at 372 miles and to eradicate the slope, putting the spaceship on a route directly over the equator.
A rocket making its first appearance on the Space Coast aims to blast off late Friday from a pad last used almost 19 years ago. “With a ideal track record of 26 successful launches, the Minotaur family has proven to be a valuable and reliable asset for the Department of Defense”.
The Air Force procured the Minotaur rockets through the Orbital Suborbital Program-3 contract managed by Kirtland AFB.
“Orbital ATK has launched almost 100 space launch and strategic rockets for the U.S. Air Force”, said Scott Lehr, President of Orbital ATK’s Flight Systems Group.
The ORS-5 launch was the sixth Minotaur IV flight. The Minotaur 4 is capable of launching payloads up to 4,000 lbs.
Atop the solid-fueled rocket featuring several decommissioned Peacekeeper missile stages sits SensorSat, a coffee table-sized Air Force spacecraft described as a “satellite wrapped around a telescope”. And it will do this on the relative cheap: ORS-5 was developed and launched for less than $100 million, Col. Shahnaz Punjani, director of the Air Force’s Operationally Responsive Space office, said during Orbital ATK’s launch webcast this morning.
“It’s sort of analogous to a surveillance radar at an airport, which goes around and around and around and around, surveilling the domain”, said Grant Stokes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory, which built the satellite.
“From this orbit, ORS-5 will deliver timely, reliable and accurate space situational awareness information to the United States Strategic Command through the Joint Space Operations Center”.
Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello hopes more Minotaurs and potentially other small rockets will keep Complex 46 busy after that. 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.
“We are excited to see the pad reignite with activity, and look forward to hosting Orbital ATK and other launch providers as we enter a new season of life for this historic facility”, DiBello said.