Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world’s leading space technology companies, today announced that it successfully launched a U.S. Government payload aboard a Minotaur I rocket in a mission that originated from Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), CA on February 5, 2011. The launch was the 20 th for the Minotaur family of launch vehicles since 2000, all of which have been successful. Of the 20 total missions, nine have been carried out by the Minotaur I space launch vehicle configuration. “For just over a decade, the Minotaur program has proven to be an extraordinary success for the U.S. Air Force. By efficiently utilizing surplus government-owned rocket motors, combined with commercial upper stages, avionics and integration processes, the Orbital/Suborbital Program has been an exceptional value for government customers, launching 30 satellites into orbit and nine payloads on suborbital trajectories,” said Mr. Ron Grabe, Orbital’s Executive Vice President and General Manager of its Launch Systems Group. “As we enter a period of tight government budgets, Orbital is ready to answer the Department of Defense’s call for greater affordability, accountability and reliability with the fully developed Minotaur product line. We are also extending the Minotaur product line to the civilian space sector with the upcoming introduction of the Minotaur V high-energy launcher for NASA’s LADEE lunar mission, which is scheduled for launch in 2013.” About Orbital’s Minotaur Product Line Orbital’s Minotaur product line was developed under the U.S. Air Force’s Orbital/Suborbital Program (OSP). The initial five-year OSP contract was awarded to Orbital in 1997, while the follow-on 10-year OSP-2 contract was received in 2003. The Minotaur I space launch vehicle used in the recent launch from VAFB is the original member of Orbital’s Minotaur product line, which includes both space launch vehicles and long-range suborbital vehicles for missile defense and other specialized missions.
Minotaur vehicles are the only proven launchers currently capable of supporting the Department of Defense’s evolving ORS launch requirements and are also specifically designed to be capable of launching from all major U.S. spaceports, including government and commercial launch sites in Alaska, California, Florida and Virginia.All Minotaur rockets share standardized avionics and subsystems, mature industrial processes and experienced personnel to make them reliable and cost effective. The Minotaur I space launch configuration combines Orbital’s commercial launch vehicle technologies, including upper stage rocket motors, structures, avionics and other elements, with government-supplied lower-stage rocket motors to create responsive, reliable and low-cost launch systems for U.S. government-sponsored spacecraft. It can place up to 1,300 lbs. into low- Earth orbit. In addition to the Minotaur I space booster, Orbital’s Minotaur product line also includes:
- Minotaur II - A three-stage suborbital rocket used as a target vehicle for testing U.S. missile defense systems and related missions;
- Minotaur III - A three-stage suborbital rocket, Minotaur III can deliver suborbital technology demonstration payloads of up to 6,500 lbs. or serve as a target vehicle for testing U.S. missile defense systems and similar missions;
- Minotaur IV – Introduced and flown three times in 2010, the Minotaur IV is a heavier-lift four-stage space launch vehicle using retired Peacekeeper rocket motors, capable of launching U.S. government-sponsored satellites weighing up to 3,800 lbs. into low-altitude orbit; and
- Minotaur V - An enhanced-performance version of the Minotaur IV space launch vehicle that will be used to launch government satellites into higher-energy orbits for missions related to space exploration and other activities beyond low-Earth orbit. The first launch of the Minotaur V is NASA’s LADEE lunar mission in 2013.
More information about Orbital can be found at http://www.orbital.comNote to Editors: High-resolution images of Minotaur rockets are available at: http://www.orbital.com/NewsInfo/ImagesMultimedia/Images/SpaceLaunch/index.shtml