Orbital ATK launched a “Frankenstein” Minotaur C rocket last Halloween
Aerospace and defense company, Orbital ATK launched its first Minotaur C rocket last October 31. The brand new rocket was launched into space from the Space Launch Complex at the Vandenburg Airforce Base in California.
The rocket, upon reaching the designated altitude deployed its payload of six SkySat Earth-imaging satellites and four Dove Cubesats. The initial payload of imaging satellites was delivered for Planet, a commercial imaging company.
Planet’s SkySat satellites are high-performance satellites that are able to capture sub-meter resolution images and high-definition video. The Dove Cubesats are small satellites developed by Planet to serve as “line scanners” and are deployed in “flocks”. Planet claims that their cubesats are the largest constellation of Earth-imaging satellites.
The payload also included satellites which are notable because of their more eco-friendly construction. The six Skysat Satellites are built to run on High-Performance Green Propulsion (HPGP). This form of fuel allows safer and more efficient combustion than the conventional Hydrazine-based propulsion systems.
This new propellant is not only more efficient in terms of performance, but safer to handle as well.
A “Frankenstein” rocket
Orbital ATK built the Minotaur C as a hybrid of the company’s previous successful rockets. Its construction was based off the Taurus XL, Pegasus, and Minotaur rockets. Hence, it was playfully given the nickname “Frankenstein”.
The Taurus family of rockets caused Orbital ATK a large sum due to the string of failures it experienced. As a result, the company took apart the rocket and redesigned it. As a result, the new rocket has become more reliable as it has integrated new technology from its Minotaur rockets.
At present, Orbital ATK’s Minotaur rockets have successfully completed 26 missions. The rockets have a success rate of 100%.
The new Minotaur C bears many similarities with the Taurus rockets. Orbital ATK in a statement mentioned that “numerous design features that are [in] common with the Minotaur product line, such as the rocket’s electrical power system, payload fairing, flight-termination system, navigation sensors and RF components,”. Orbital ATK also calls the Minotaur C its ground-launched variant of the Pegasus rockets which are launched from the air.
Minotaur C is outfitted with four solid-fueled rocket stages. It can carry payloads up to 1590kg into orbit.