Minotaur launches with TacSat-2/GeneSat-2

by Chris Bergin

An Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC) Minotaur I launch vehicle has blasted off from NASA Wallops Flight Facility this morning, carrying the TacSat-2 and GeneSat-1 satellites. Liftoff was at 7am local time (midday UK).

NASASpaceflight.com covered the launch as a live event, with background, live updates, images and video available on the link below (read more).

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The launch was set for earlier in the week, but issues with the classified TacSat-2 satellite – which is being launched for the US Air Force – pushed back the opening attempt to Saturday.

The mission will be conducted from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport launch pad on the south end of Wallops Island.

‘The Wallops Flight Facility has a 61-year heritage of providing fast response launch services to government, academia and commercial organizations. We are very pleased to be able to support this Air Force mission,’ said Jay Pittman, chief of the Range and Mission Management Office.

The Minotaur I is a four-stage vehicle, two stages being refurbished Minuteman II stages and the other two stages being OSC stages. The Minotaur is 69 feet tall and 5 feet wide. It will be carrying the satellites to an orbit of 250 miles.

The main payload is the TacSat-2 satellite which will exhibit tenets of responsive space concepts. The secondary payload is the GeneSat-1, which was developed by the NASA Ames Research Center. GeneSat-1 is a fully automated, miniature spaceflight system that will provide life support for small living things.

The mission will look for genetic changes in bacteria (E.Coli) during spaceflight. The E.Coli on board is E.Coli K-12, which cannot live within humans. The knowledge obtained from the GeneSat-1 experiment may contribute to safe, long-duration space missions by humans.

The TacSat-2 satellite carries on board a new technology instrument sponsored by the NASA New Millennium Program which develops and validates in space advanced technologies. The instrument, called the Inertial Stellar Compass (ISC), is part of the Space Technology 6 project.

The ISC was developed by Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The ISC is a miniature star camera and MEMS gyro suite which will allow future small spacecraft autonomously find its orientation in space.

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