SpaceX Ruled Roost in 2017, Boosting U.S. to No. 1 in Global Launches

Falcon 9 carries the Dragon cargo ship into orbit. (Credit: NASA TV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX had a banner year in 2017, launching a record 18 times and helping to propel the United States to the top of the global launch table with a perfect 29-0 record. The U.S. total made up 32.2 percent of 90 orbital launches worldwide, which was an increase over the 85 flights conducted in 2016.

The 29 American launches were a leap of seven over the 22 flights conducted the previous year. This is the highest number of American orbital launches since the 31 flights undertaken in 1999. However, that year the nation’s launch providers suffered four failures whereas they were perfect in 2017.

(more…)

Video of Spectacular Minotaur IV Night Launch

Video Caption: An Orbital ATK Minotaur IV rocket has successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral’s launch pad 46 at 06:04 UTC, August 26th 2017. This was the 6th launch and 1st from Cape Canaveral. The rocket carried the ORS-5 payload for the US Air Force.

Orbital ATK’s Minotaur IV Lofts U.S. Air Force Satellite into Orbit

Minotaur IV launches ORS-5 spacecraft. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

DULLES, Va., 26 August 2017 (Orbital ATK PR) – Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, announced its Minotaur IV space launch vehicle successfully launched and placed into orbit the U.S. Air Force’s Operationally Responsive Space-5 (ORS-5) spacecraft on August 26, 2017.

The Minotaur IV launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 46 (SLC-46), which is operated under license by Space Florida. This mission marks the 26th consecutive successful launch for the company’s Minotaur product line.

(more…)

Minotaur IV Launch Set for Tonight

DULLES, Va., 25 August 2017 (Orbital ATK PR)– Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today announced it is proceeding towards launch of the company’s Minotaur IV rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, tonight at approximately 11:15 p.m. EDT.

Live web coverage of tonight’s Minotaur launch will begin at 10:55 p.m. EDT and can be found at bit.ly/2x7o20P. 

The Minotaur IV will carry the U.S. Air Force’s Operationally Responsive Space-5 (ORS-5) spacecraft, which will monitor satellites and space debris to aid the U.S. military’s space situational awareness.

Save

Falcon 9, Minotaur IV Launches Set for Thursday & Friday

Three launches are scheduled for the week ahead, including a pair in the United States and one in India.

Falcon 9
Formosat 5 remote sensing satellite
Date: Thursday, Aug. 24
Time: 2:50-3:34 p.m. EDT; 11:50 a.m.-12:34 p.m. PDT (1850-1934 GMT)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

Minotaur IV
ORS 5
Date: Friday, Aug. 25
Time: 11:14 p.m.-3:15 a.m. EDT (0314-0715 GMT on Aug. 26)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

This marks the first flight of Orbital ATK’s Minotaur IV booster from Cape Canaveral. The payload, also known as SensorSat, is a military satellite that will scan for other spacecraft and orbital debris. ORS 5 was produced by the military’s Operationally Responsive Space program.

PSLV
IRNSS 1H navigation satellite
Date: Thursday, Aug. 31
Time: TBA
Launch Site: Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota, India

Save

Space Florida Transforms SLC-46 for New Launch Capabilities

Athena-2 rocket at SLC-46. (Credit: NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACEPORT (August 17, 2017) – On August 25, Orbital ATK is scheduled to launch its Minotaur 4 rocket from Space Florida’s Space Launch Complex (SLC) 46 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The launch of the ORS 5 mission for the US Air Force (USAF), will be the first launch from the pad since 1999, as well as the first since Space Florida renovated the complex.

(more…)

Space Florida Approves Minotaur Launches From Florida

minotaur4
Minotaur IV booster

The Space Florida Board of Directors last week approved a plan to allow Orbital ATK to use Launch Complex 46 (SLC-46) at Cape Canaveral for Minotaur launches. The board instructed staff members to complete negotiations and enter into a contract with the Virginia-based company.

The board’s approval clears the way for Orbital ATK to launch the U.S. Air Force’s Office of Operationally Responsive Space’s ORS-5 SensorSat spacecraft in mid-2017.

SensorSat will be launched aboard a Minotaur IV rocket under a $23.6 million contract.

“The risks associated with operating the site and launching the vehicle are born by [Orbital ATK],” according to the board’s meeting agenda. “The Company will pay a reimbursement fee to Space Florida for all fees and costs incurred by Space Florida associated with the use of the Premises.”

SLC-46 increases the locations where Minotaur rockets can be launched to four. Orbital ATK has launch facilities for the booster in Virginia, California and Alaska.

Space Florida is eyeing SLC-46 for other launches, including or a test of the Orion abort system in 2019.

Save

Orbital ATK’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicles Facing Increased Competition

A Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifts off from at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)
A Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifts off from at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)

Recently, there’s been a bit of a kerfuffle over the use of surplus intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) to launch satellites. Orbital ATK would like to lift the ban on using them to launch commercial satellites, the U.S. Air Force would like to find a way to sell the engines, and an emerging commercial launch industry that doesn’t want what it considers government-subsidized competition.

Now, you’ve probably been wondering a few things. What does Orbital ATK do with these engines? What does it launch on them? And what launch vehicles are in operation or in development to compete with these boosters?

Those are all great questions. And now the answers.

(more…)

Cape Canaveral Launch Complex Revived

space_florida_logoKENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (Space Florida PR) – Space Florida, the Sunshine State’s aerospace and spaceport development authority, today announced that its Cape Canaveral launch facility at LC-46 will soon be roaring back to life as a multiuser launchpad for customers employing smaller rocket systems.

Space Florida has already started renovating Launch Complex 46 in preparation for several customers lined up to use the historic facility located at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Recently, Space Florida completed installation of a state-of-the-art communication and data system.

(more…)

NASA OIG: Use More Minotaurs

SpaceX and other commercial launch providers will have more competition for lofting some of NASA’s science missions — courtesy of America’s nuclear arsenal.

NASA has agreed to consider using more ICBM-derived Minotaur IV boosters to launch medium-size missions after an investigation by the agency’s Inspector General found that the move could save a significant amount of money and hedge against delays in the availability of commercial alternatives.

In a report released today, the IG’s Office said NASA has been resisting the move because it could interfere with the development of other commercial alternatives. However, agency officials said they would include Minotaur IV for medium-size science missions after they were given a draft copy of the report. Minotaur IV was already in the mix for launching small payloads.

(more…)

Video: Minotaur IV Launches From Kodiak Island

NASA MISSION UPDATES

On Saturday, Nov. 20, FASTSAT made contact with ground stations at Svalbard, Norway and Kodiak, Alaska, and received commands from and communicated with mission controllers at the small satellite command center located at the Huntsville Operations and Science Control Center at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The satellite continues to function nominally as the commissioning phase of the mission continues.

(more…)

Minotaur IV Set to Launch FASTSAT, NanoSail-D into Space on Friday Night

A Minotaur IV rocket is set to launch a set of innovative nanosats from the Kodiak Launch Complex on Friday evening. The launch is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 19, at 7:24 p.m. CST. The launch can be viewed on the web at this page, http://www.nasa.gov/fastsat, on Friday, Nov. 19, starting at 7 p.m. CST.

Below are NASA’s descriptions of three of the satellites to be launched: FASTSAT, NanoSail-D, and O/OREOS.

NASA’s FASTSAT (Credit: NASA)

FASTSAT

NASA’s Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite, or FASTSAT, will carry six small payloads to low Earth orbit, demonstrating a critical ability to provide low-cost and rapid response opportunities for scientific and technical payloads to get to space. FASTSAT is NASA’s first microsatellite designed to create a capability that increases opportunities for secondary, scientific and technology payloads, or rideshares, to be flown at lower cost than previously possible. It serves as a bus or platform that puts scientific research on the affordable fast track for governmental, academic and industry researchers.

The FASTSAT mission is a joint activity between NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense Space Test Program. The satellite was designed, developed and tested at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., in partnership with the Von Braun Center for Science & Innovation and Dynetics Inc. of Huntsville.

(more…)