Using a combination of U.S. government-supplied Minuteman II motors and proven Orbital's commercial launch technologies, Orbital developed the low-cost, four-stage Space Launch Vehicle (SLV) Minotaur rocket for the U.S. Air Force's Orbital/Suborbital Program (OSP).
The Minuteman rocket motors serve as the vehicle's first and second stages, efficiently reusing motors that have been decommissioned as a result of arms reduction treaties. Minotaur's third and fourth stages, structures and payload fairing are common with our highly reliable Pegasus XL rocket. Its capabilities have been enhanced with the addition of improved avionics systems, including our Modular Avionics Control Hardware (MACH), which is now used on most of our 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 U.S. Government Minuteman boosters in a space launch vehicle. Since then, Minotaur has extended its 100% success record with the launches of:
MightySat II.1 in July 2000 and XSS-11 in April 2005, both technology demonstration satellites for the Air Force Research Laboratory
STP-R1 "Streak" in September 2005 for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
FORMOSAT-3/COSMIC, a constellation of six remote-sensing microsatellites, in April 2006, for the National Space Organization of Taiwan
TacSat-2 for the Air Force Research Laboratory and Genesat-1 for the NASA Ames Research Center in December 2006
NFIRE for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency in April 2007
TacSat-3 for the Air Force Research Laboratory and PharmaSat and 3 CubeSats for NASA in May 2009
N ROL-66 for the National Reconaissance Office in February 2011
ORS-1 for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in June 2011
Through the TacSat-2 and ORS-1 missions, the Minotaur I also demonstrated its ability to provide a near-term, low-risk solution to the emerging Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) requirements. The TacSat-2 mission was launched less than seven months after the contract award. During final processing, the ability to go from payload mate to launch in less than six days was demonstrated, as well as the capability to maintain the vehicle in a launch-ready mode for an extended period of time.
Quick Facts Ten launches conducted – 100% successful
33 small satellites carried into orbit
Capable of launching from commercial spaceports, and/or Government facilities at Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) CA, Wallops Island, VA, Cape Canaveral, FL and Kodiak Island, AK