Orbital to Debut New Minotaur Variant

Minotaur I launch. (Credit: NASA)
Minotaur I launch. (Credit: NASA)

Orbital Sciences will debut a new variant of its Minotaur small satellite launch vehicle in late 2015 with the launch of six Skybox Imaging satellites, the company announced last week.

“The Minotaur-C rocket will use four solid rocket motors supplied by ATK as its propulsion system, all of which have been flown dozens of times and thoroughly flight-proven in various combinations on Orbital’s other small space launch vehicles, including Pegasus, Taurus and Minotaur, as well as on the company’s Orbital Boost Vehicle (OBV) long-range missile defense interceptor,” the company said in a press release.

“It will also incorporate numerous design features that are common with the Minotaur product line, such as the rocket’s electrical power system, payload fairing, flight termination system, navigation sensors and RF components. In addition, the Minotaur-C will utilize its SkySat satellite dispenser, currently in design by the Minotaur team, which will be built and tested at the company’s Chandler, AZ launch vehicle design and engineering facility.”

The currently line of Minotaur launch vehicles primarily uses engines left over from the Minuteman II and Peacekeeper ballistic missile programs. These rockets includes components and systems from the company’s Pegasus and Taurus launch vehicles.

The Minotaur-C will launch six high-resolution imaging and video-capable spacecraft into low-Earth orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in late 2015. Terms of the agreement with Skybox Imaging were not released.

“We are very pleased to have been selected by Skybox Imaging for this exciting opportunity,” said Mr. David W. Thompson, Orbital’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, in a press release. “As fellow participants in the expansion of the commercial space industry, Orbital and Skybox share similar values of innovation, affordability and reliability, which make this partnership a perfect fit. We have offered options for additional launch services to support the development of Skybox’s business, and we are looking forward to the opportunity to forge a long-term, multi-launch relationship with their team.”