Orbital ATK’s Minotaur-C Orbits 10 Planet Satellites

Minotaur-C launch from Vandenberg. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

DULLES, Va., 31 October 2017 (Orbital ATK PR) – Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, announced its commercial Minotaur C rocket successfully launched 10 commercial spacecraft into orbit for Planet. The Minotaur C launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The rocket’s first stage ignited at 2:37 p.m. (PDT), and just over 12 minutes later, Planet’s six SkySat spacecraft began to deploy one at a time into their targeted sun synchronous orbit 310 miles (500 kilometers) above the Earth. Following deployment of the main satellites, Planet’s four secondary Dove spacecraft deployed. From this orbit, the Dove and SkySat network of remote sensing satellites will deliver a global information feed to businesses, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) around the world.

“It’s an honor to deliver reliable and affordable access to space for commercial customers like Planet,” said Rich Straka, Vice President and General Manager of Orbital ATK’s Launch Vehicles Division. “Launching small- and medium-class payloads on dedicated Orbital ATK launch vehicles gives commercial customers the ability to control their schedules while meeting challenging mission requirements.”

The Minotaur C rocket is an all-commercial vehicle capable of launching payloads up to 3,500 lbs. The configuration that launched today included four solid rocket commercial motors: CASTOR 120®, Orion 50S XL, Orion 50 XL and Orion 38. Orbital ATK manufactured all four motors at facilities in Clearfield, Magna and Promontory, Utah. The company manufactured the avionics, software and separation systems at facilities in Chandler, Arizona. Integration of the Minotaur C rocket took place at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Planet’s Dove and SkySat satellites, which are manufactured in California, are some of the most capable spacecraft per kilogram ever produced. A record-breaking 275 Dove satellites have been successfully deployed and operated in space and today collect more imagery per day than any other fleet of commercial satellites. The constellation of 13 SkySats is the world’s largest commercial, sub-meter fleet of high-res satellites operating in space.

About Orbital ATK

Orbital ATK is a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies. The company designs, builds and delivers space, defense and aviation systems for customers around the world, both as a prime contractor and merchant supplier. Its main products include launch vehicles and related propulsion systems; missile products, subsystems and defense electronics; precision weapons, armament systems and ammunition; satellites and associated space components and services; and advanced aerospace structures. Headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, Orbital ATK employs approximately 13,000 people across the U.S. and in several international locations. For more information, visit www.orbitalatk.com.

  • Robert G. Oler

    curious if the rocket has any more customers

  • Zed_WEASEL

    Well the Minotaur-C costs from $40 to $50 million dollars to launch from 1278 to 1458 kg to LEO according to a recent GAO report.

    Compare that with the 22800 kg to LEO with the current Falcon 9 variant for $61.2 million. Never mind the discounted Falcon 9 with “flight proven booster”.

    Draw your own conclusions about the Minotaur-C market viability. Think it is about the same as the Athena family from Lockheed-Martin.

  • Hypx

    You’re not going to get 22.8 tonnes to LEO on $61.2 million. That would imply an expendable Falcon 9 which would cost a lot more. That’s also not including many additional services either. Real world costs and real world performance figures are going to be quite a bit worse than that. The most recent contract for the Falcon 9 (Sentinel-6A) puts it at $97 million for that specific launch for example.

    There’s always going to be a need for small sat launchers like the Minotaur-C or Vega. It doesn’t make sense to launch a small satellite on an unnecessarily big rocket, even if that rocket has lower cost per kg of payload.

  • Yes for 2 reasons (and I’m as surprised as anyone that they got the contract and it went as well as it did):

    1) they got one contract (the fact they were able to shop it on the open market and get ANY win means they’ve figured out how to sell it)

    2) the flight went perfectly (maybe they can live down Ocean Submersibles Corporation)

  • Agreed.

    Also, maybe I’ve studied historic launch vehicles for too long, but the all solid launchers have a certain visual appeal to me. Scout, Taurus, Vega – 4 stages make a great solid stack and the tapering diameter just gives it a certain visual appeal. They just LOOK right.

  • Robert G. Oler

    trying to sort out what their customer base is here…some great comments

  • With any luck, their sales team will tell us with a series of wins.

    My guess is the small-medium payload range that doesn’t want to mess with secondary payloads or coordinating a rideshare situation. I believe $/kg is a fallacy and price to launch “your ACTUAL payload” will be all that matters.

  • Robert G. Oler

    yes price per KG is important but its not the end all to be all…

  • duheagle

    Planet might well be up for at least one more Minotaur-C. There are apparently eight more Skysats left to launch. Two of them are manifested for a rideshare on a Falcon 9 next year. The remaining six could go aloft on a repeat of the Halloween mission.

  • publiusr

    I remember the bad ole days with the yawning gap between Atlas IIAS and Titan IV–with not an ounce more than 20 tons.

    The solids have great dial-a-payload range.