DULLES, Va., 19 April 2012. The U.S. Air Force has exercised an option order for a Minotaur I space launch vehicle from Orbital Sciences Corp. (NYSE:ORB) to support the ORS-3 “Enabler” mission for the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office of the Department of Defense.
This most recent Minotaur I space launch vehicle ordered by the Air Force will be launched from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) facility at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Va., in 2013.
The Minotaur I four-stage solid fuel space launch vehicle uses Minuteman rocket motors for its first and second stages. It reuses government-owned motors that have been decommissioned as a result of arms reduction treaties.
“We are very pleased to continue to provide cost-effective military space missions for the U.S. Air Force,” explains Ron Grabe, Orbital’s executive vice president and general manager of its Launch Systems Group. “For the past 15 years, the Minotaur program has provided highly reliable and affordable launchers that combine government-owned propulsion systems with commercial rocket technology to support Department of Defense and other U.S. government space missions.”
The Enabler mission will be the fifth Minotaur I rocket to be launched from the MARS facility, following the TacSat-2, NFIRE, TacSat-3, and ORS-1 missions conducted from the Eastern Virginia launch site in 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2011, respectfully.
Orbital’s Minotaur product line was originally developed under the U.S. Air Force’s Orbital/Suborbital Program (OSP). The initial five-year OSP contract was awarded to Orbital in 1997, followed by the 10-year OSP-2 contract in 2002. The Minotaur product line 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, says a spokesperson. All Minotaur rockets share standardized avionics and subsystems, to ensure reliability and cost-effectiveness.
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. It can place approximately 1,300 lbs. into low-Earth orbit.