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Minotaur II Launches To Support Near-Field Infrared Experiment

By | September 29, 2008

      A Minotaur II rocket launched to support the Missile Defense Agency Near-Field Infrared Experiment (NFIRE), Orbital Sciences Corp. [ORB] announced.

      That launch for the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center was conducted at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

      This was the eighth mission for the Minotaur II Target Launch Vehicle and the 15th for the Minotaur family, all of which have been successful, according to Orbital.

      Final targeting for the mission was uploaded to the rocket approximately one and a half hours prior to launch.

      Launch occurred in a one-second launch window, which was required to meet the mission’s precise targeting requirements.

      The vehicle’s first two solid rocket motors burned for approximately two minutes, at which time the vehicle entered into a coast phase lasting over one minute. After its coast period, the third and final stage ignited, placing the vehicle on course to burn through a precise aim point at an exact time nearly 250 kilometers (155.3 miles) above the Pacific Ocean.

      The vehicle was observed by the NFIRE satellite and a variety of Missile Defense Agency sensors deployed across the Pacific region.

      At the point of closest approach, the Minotaur target vehicle and NFIRE satellite were within several kilometers of each other.

      Orbital also launched the NFIRE satellite in April last year aboard a Minotaur I space launch vehicle in a mission conducted from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Va.

      Orbital also conducted an earlier Minotaur II launch that was observed by the NFIRE satellite last year.

      The flight involved a number of first flight items, including a new Pierce Point Guidance algorithm and demonstration of a launch minus 90-minute target point upload to the flight computer, capabilities that have Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) applications.

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