Orbital ATK has launched a military satellite designed to monitor other sats and ever-pesky space junk.
The Minotaur IV uses three military-decommissioned solid rocket motors and a commercial solid rocket upper stage to launch payloads into low Earth orbit.
In its latest mission — launching the Air Force’s Operationally Responsive Space-5 spacecraft — the Minotaur IV also utilized a fifth stage motor to give the launcher extra capability to place the ORS-5 payload into equatorial orbit. That happened roughly 28 minutes after liftoff.
The ORS-5 is designed to “monitor satellites and space debris to aid the U.S. military’s space situational awareness,” Orbital said.
The launch, originally scheduled for July 15, represented Orbital’s 26th Minotaur launch. Four of those launches involved the Minotaur IV version of the launch vehicle.
Orbital ATK has launched nearly 100 space launch and strategic rockets for the U.S. Air Force, said Scott Lehr, president of Orbital ATK’s Flight Systems Group. “We’re proud to be a partner they can count on.”
Based in Dulles, Va., Orbital is an aerospace and defense contractor whose launch contracts include cargo-shuttle missions for NASA.