Orbital successfully launch TacSat-3 via Minotaur 1

An Orbital Minotaur 1 has finally launched from the Wallops Island Flight Facility with the Tactical Satellite-3 (TacSat-3) satellite. The launch was heavily postponed, with several scrubs relating from the weather to the launch vehicle and facility.

It was via the earlier TacSat-2 mission that the Minotaur I demonstrated its ability to provide a near-term, low-risk solution to the emerging Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) requirements. The mission was launched less than seven months after the contract award.

Minotaur I made its inaugural flight in January 2000, successfully delivering several small military and university satellites into orbit and marking the first-ever use of residual US Government Minuteman boosters in a space launch vehicle.

It’s those Minuteman rocket motors that serve as the vehicle’s first and second stages. Minotaur’s third and fourth stages, structures and payload fairing are common with Orbital’s Pegasus XL rocket. The vehicle also boasts improved avionics systems, including Modular Avionics Control Hardware (MACH), which is now used on most of Orbital’s launch vehicles.

Minotaur I made its inaugural flight in January 2000, successfully delivering several small military and university satellites into orbit and marking the first-ever use of residual US Government Minuteman boosters in a space launch vehicle.

The Wallops facility holds an important part of Orbital’s future, with work continuing on a neighboring pad for the Taurus II medium class launch vehicle, which will be tasked with resupplying the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.

TacSat-3 is the third in a series of US military reconnaissance satellites.

The TacSat-3 spacecraft is a pioneer of the emerging operationally responsive space (ORS) program, and designed to meet the needs of U.S. forces for flexible, affordable and responsive satellite systems.

The TacSat-3 program is a joint effort of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command, Air Force Space Command, the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Operationally Responsive Space Office (ORS), the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate.

The satellite features three revolutionary trials: the Raytheon Company-built Advanced Responsive Tactically Effective Military Imaging Spectrometer hyperspectral imager, the Office of Naval Research’s Satellite Communications Package, and the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Avionics Experiment.

This trio of payloads will offer real-time imagery (within 10 minutes of collection), sea-based information transmitted from ocean buoys and plug-and-play avionics to assist the warfighter in keeping one step ahead of the adversary.

The hyperspectral sensor on TacSat-3 has the potential to give combat troops on the ground an revolutionary new reconnaissance capability in theatee.

Three cubesats will be launched as secondary payloads on the TacSat-3 mission. The satellites, which contain their own power and data systems, are four-inch cubes that weigh 2.2 pounds each.

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