Orbital ATK’s Minotaur rocket will make its first launch from Cape Canaveral Friday, delivering the experimental space surveillance ORS-5 satellite to orbit. The Minotaur IV vehicle is scheduled for liftoff during a four-hour window opening at 23:15 EDT (03:15 UTC on Saturday) from Launch Complex-46 (LC-46).
Friday’s launch marks the first time that Orbital ATK – or its predecessor Orbital Sciences Corporation – has conducted a vertical launch from Cape Canaveral, although the company has previously deployed its air-launched Pegasus rocket from the runways of both the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the Shuttle Landing Facility at the nearby Kennedy Space Center.
The launch will deliver the 140-kilogram (310-pound) ORS-5 satellite into a 600-kilometre (373-mile, 324-nautical-mile) orbit above Earth’s equator. Also known as SensorSat, the ORS-5 spacecraft will be used for a mission termed space situational awareness (SSA) or space surveillance – monitoring other satellites in orbit.
From its equatorial orbit, ORS-5 will use an optical imaging system to watch satellites in geostationary orbit high above it: detecting activity such as spacecraft being relocated, identifying debris and providing early warning of possible collisions.
The geostationary belt is home to a large number of spacecraft, including most of ...