Rocket To Launch NASAs Lunar Spacecraft From Wallops Island,
Orbital Sciences Corporation
announced Tuesday that the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems
Center (SMC) recently ordered the first Minotaur V launch vehicle
under the company's Orbital/Suborbital Program-2 (OSP-2) contract.
The Minotaur V rocket will propel NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust
Environment Explorer (LADEE) probe on a trajectory to enable it to
orbit the Moon. The Air Force's Space Development and Test Wing
(SDTW), located at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, administers the OSP-2
contract. The program office is responsible for all Minotaur
vehicles for the Launch Test Squadron (LTS) of SDTW.
The company's new order brings the total number of Minotaur
launch vehicles procured by the U.S. Air Force, including space
launch and target vehicles, to 28 since the inception of the
program in 1997. It also represents the first order of a Minotaur V
rocket designed to launch U.S. government satellites into
higher-energy orbits for missions related to space exploration and
other activities beyond low-Earth orbit.
"We are pleased to support NASA and the Air Force for this
exciting mission to Earth's Moon," said Mr. Lou Amorosi, Orbital
Vice President and Program Director of the Minotaur product line.
"The Minotaur V launch vehicle was designed exactly with missions
such as LADEE in mind, using both government-supplied and
commercial rocket motors to provide highly reliable and affordable
launches for high-energy and escape-trajectory missions."
LADEE is a NASA probe that will orbit the Moon to characterize
the atmosphere and lunar dust environment and determine the global
density, composition, and time variability of the lunar atmosphere
before it is perturbed by further human activity. The mission is
currently scheduled for launch in May 2012 from Wallops Island,
Minotaur V is a five-stage space launch vehicle capable of
launching satellites weighing up to 1,425 pounds to geosynchronous
transfer orbit, or over 900 pounds to trans-lunar and other
Earth-escape trajectories. The rocket's first three stages consist
of retired Peacekeeper rocket motors while its fourth and fifth
stage motors are commercial Star 48 and Star 37 motors,
Orbital has launched a total of 16 Minotaur vehicles with a
perfect mission success record, beginning with the inaugural
mission in January 2000. Eight of the missions have been carried
out by the Minotaur I space launch vehicle (SLV) configuration and
eight by the Minotaur II suborbital target launch vehicle (TLV).
Currently, there are 11 additional Minotaur missions on Orbital's
upcoming launch manifest, including the inaugural launch of the
Minotaur IV rocket, scheduled to boost the Space-Based Space
Surveillance (SBSS) satellite into orbit for the U.S. Air Force
later in 2009.