Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE:ORB), one of the world’s leading space technology companies, announced that it successfully launched a Minotaur I rocket in support of the Department of Defense Operationally Responsive Space Office’s ORS-3 mission earlier this evening. Originating from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, located at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia, this mission marks the 25th launch for the Minotaur rocket, all of which have been successful, and the sixth Minotaur vehicle to be launched from the Wallops facility.
At approximately 8:15 p.m. (EST), the rocket’s first stage ignited, beginning its flight into low-Earth orbit. Approximately 12 minutes after lift-off, the Air Force’s Space Test Program Satellite-3 spacecraft was deployed into its intended orbit at an altitude of approximately 500 km (310 miles). The Minotaur’s upper stage then executed a pre-planned collision avoidance maneuver before starting deployment of 28 CubeSats sponsored by the ORS office, the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Test Program, and NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program.
“This mission marks the final launch for Minotaur under the initial Orbital/Suborbital Program-1 and -2 contracts, culminating in the successful delivery of 74 satellites to orbit and 10 suborbital payloads to high-altitude trajectories over 25 total missions,” said Mr. Ron Grabe, Orbital’s Executive Vice President and General Manager of its Launch Systems Group. “Orbital’s team is absolutely focused on offering the most reliable and cost-effective launch systems to our government customers for their important space missions. This dedication and teamwork with the Air Force has resulted in achieving 25 consecutive successful missions since 2000. We look forward to continuing this collaboration under the OSP-3 contract in the years ahead.”
This launch, which was executed under a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) license obtained by Orbital through the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, demonstrated a commercial-like approach to government launches in an effort to reduce overall costs. Through this mission, Orbital also supported the development of new technologies for launch and range improvements including automated targeting, range tracking and flight termination systems.