Peacekeeper missles repurposed to launch satellites

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Cyborg Rocketeer
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Global Mod
Jan 5, 2009
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Alliance, Ohio
CAPE CANAVERAL — Three inert Peacekeeper missile stages have been stacked at Cape Canaveral’s Complex 46 pad, demonstrating the techniques that will be used to assemble a Minotaur 4 rocket to launch an experimental space surveillance satellite this summer.

Decommissioned Peacekeeper missiles form the basis for Minotaur 4 rockets, operated by Orbital ATK, and will deliver the majority of power to launch a small spacecraft, called SensorSat, into Earth orbit.

Launch is tentatively planned for July 15 at roughly 1 a.m. EDT (0500 GMT).

Known as the Operationally Responsive Space-5 mission, or ORS-5, it will be the first Minotaur launch from Cape Canaveral.

Officials say the Cape was chosen as the launch site because it is best suited to fly the special five-stage Minotaur 4 into the desired equatorial orbit.

The payload will circle the planet in low-Earth orbit to scan the valuable region of space 22,300 miles high — the geosynchronous orbital belt — to spot debris and warn against collisions.

Geosynchronous orbit is where communications satellites, weather observatories and key reconnaissance platforms reside because that altitude allows the craft to fly continuously above the same part of the globe.

Many of the details about ORS-5 remain classified. But SensorSat will test technologies and reduce the risk for future space situational awareness missions.

The launch pad hosting this mission is Complex 46, a former Trident missile test site built in the 1980s for the U.S. Navy, then converted to spaceflight users in the 1990s and employed by Lockheed Martin to launch two Athena boosters including NASA’s Lunar Prospector.

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