Orbital ATK’s ‘Frankenstein’ Minotaur C Rocket Blasts Off on Halloween


A brand-new sort of rocket, the Minotaur C, blasted off on its maiden voyage right this moment (Oct. 31) to ship a number of new Earth remark satellites into orbit.


Orbital ATK’s Minotaur C lifted off from Space Launch Complex 576E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 5:37 p.m. EDT (2:37 p.m. native time, 2137 GMT).


About 15 minutes later, the rocket deployed six SkySat Earth-imaging satellites and 4 Dove cubesats for the industrial imaging firm Planet. “Liftoff of Minotaur C, carrying the SkySat and Dove satellites for Planet,” Sean Wilson, director of company communications for Orbital ATK, mentioned throughout a dwell webcast of the launch. [Gallery: Planet Labs Photos of Earth from Space]


Planet contracted the non-public spaceflight firm Orbital ATK to launch these satellites on its new and improved Minotaur C rocket, which was previously referred to as the Taurus XL.


Shortly after launch, Wilson reported a short lack of telemetry knowledge. But this little Halloween scare turned out to be inconsequential, and telemetry was rapidly recovered because the rocket made its method into low-Earth orbit.


This picture exhibits the trajectory of this afternoon’s #MinotaurC launch pic.twitter.com/EFfqCMvpmp


— Orbital ATK (@OrbitalATK) October 31, 2017


Building a “Frankenstein” rocket


Built by Orbital ATK, the Minotaur C rocket is a hybrid model of the corporate’s outdated Taurus XL rocket, Pegasus rocket and Minotaur household of rockets.


After Orbital ATK suffered a collection of launch failures with the Taurus rockets — which led to the lack of NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory in addition to its Glory climate-monitoring satellite tv for pc — the corporate redesigned the Taurus. The new and improved rocket makes use of newer and extra dependable applied sciences that Orbital ATK had constructed for its different Minotaur rockets.


“To date, our Minotaur rockets have completed 26 missions out of every major U.S. spaceport with 100 percent success, demonstrating the vehicle’s unique versatility and reliability,” Orbital ATK officers mentioned in an announcement.

An Orbital ATK Minotaur C rocket rises into the sky above California’s Vandenberg Air Force Station on Oct. 31, 2017, carrying 10 Earth-observing satellites for the corporate Planet.

Credit: Orbital ATK


The upgraded Minotaur C carefully resembles a Taurus rocket, but it surely incorporates “numerous design features that are [in] common with the Minotaur product line, such as the rocket’s electrical power system, payload fairing, flight-termination system, navigation sensors and RF components,” the badertion mentioned. The firm additionally refers back to the Minotaur C as “a ground-launched variant” of the air-launched Pegasus rockets.


Minotaur C is provided with 4 solid-fueled rocket levels, stands 92 toes (28 meters) tall and may ship payloads of as much as three,500 lbs. (1,590 kilograms) into orbit.

A suite of SkySat and Dove satellites is encapsulated into the payload fairing of an Orbital ATK Minotaur-C rocket prior to launch.

A set of SkySat and Dove satellites is encapsulated into the payload fairing of an Orbital ATK Minotaur-C rocket previous to launch.

Credit: Orbital ATK


“Green” satellites


Not solely are the 10 satellites that Minotaur C simply launched made to check the Earth, however a few of them additionally badist shield the planet by working on extra environmentally pleasant or “green” know-how.


Developed by the Dutch-Swedish firm Bradford Engineering’s Ecological Advanced Propulsion Systems (ECAPS), the propulsion techniques aboard the six SkySat satellites run on High-Performance Green Propulsion (HPGP) thrusters which can be safer and extra environment friendly than conventional propulsion techniques that run on hydrazine.


Hydrazine is a extremely poisonous gasoline that has served as the usual sort of rocket propellant for the reason that daybreak of the house age, Ian Fichtenbaum, the director of Bradford ECAPS, advised Space.com.


The new propellant, LMP-103S, is just not solely extra environment friendly than hydrazine, but it surely’s additionally safer to deal with. That means satellite tv for pc producers do not require the identical strictly regulated amenities or security procedures to do their jobs, Fichtenbaum mentioned. This interprets to money and time saved on each development and transportation of satellites earlier than they launch into house, he mentioned.


Email Hanneke Weitering at [email protected] or observe her @hannekescience. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.




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