November 19, 2013
Orbital Launching Record Number Of Satellites Tonight
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Orbital Sciences announced on Tuesday that it is in the final preparations for the launch of a mission that will place a record number of satellites into orbit.
The company’s Minotaur I rocket will be launched from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia tonight. The rocket will be taking up the Department of Defense Operationally Responsive Space Office’s ORS-3 mission, or the Enabler mission.
This mission will demonstrate launch and range improvements to include automated vehicle trajectory targeting, range safety planning, and flight termination. It will also see to it that the Air Force’s Space Test Program Satellite-3 and 28 CubeSats are placed into orbit.
Orbital Sciences has a Orbital/Suborbital Program (OSP) government contract, under which the company designs, integrates, tests and provides space launch services with the Minotaur I, IV, V and VI rockets.
“We are pleased that the ORS office has chosen the Minotaur I rocket to support this important mission that will not only launch the Air Force’s Space Test Program Satellite-3 and 28 CubeSats, but will also demonstrate new methods and technologies designed to reduce overall launch costs,” Mr. Ron Grabe, Orbital’s Executive Vice President and General Manager of its Launch Systems Group, said in a press release. “We look forward to a successful launch of the ORS-3 mission and the opportunity to continue supporting the Department of Defense’s important work in the area of ORS systems.”
One of the 28 CubeSats that will be onboard the Minotaur I rocket belongs to the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. This satellite, known as TJ3Sat, is the first satellite to be built and tested by high school students.
During the past few years, volunteers from Orbital have helped mentor students and provide engineering oversight to help make the TJ3Sat possible. The satellite was assigned to the ORS-3 mission through NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program based on launch manifest availability.
Orbital offered up some volunteers to help the high school students develop the satellite. The company also provided the testing facilities and financial support for the project.
Not only will this be the 25th Minotaur rocket to be launched, but the mission will also involve placing a record number of satellites into orbit. If all goes according to plan, this mission could represent a reduction in future timelines, eventually resulting in decreased mission costs.