SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2010
2330 GMT (6:30 p.m. EST; 2:30 p.m. AST)
All of the satellites launched yesterday are reported to be in good shape and transmitting signals to the ground.
1910 GMT (2:10 p.m. EST; 10:10 a.m. AST)
Make sure to check out our photo gallery
with views of yesterday's sunset blastoff.
0345 GMT Sat. (10:45 p.m. EST; 6:45 p.m. AST Fri.)
The primary payload for tonight's launch has radioed back to Earth through a ground station in Hawaii, according to Ken Reese, the Air Force STPSat 2 program manager.
STPSat 2 extended its solar panels and is operating normally, Reese said.
0315 GMT Sat. (10:15 p.m. EST; 6:15 p.m. AST Fri.)
Today's Minotaur 4 rocket launch from Alaska has reached a successful conclusion, releasing six satellites 400 miles above Earth, then firing a liquid-fueled thruster to boost its orbit another 300 miles higher.
The $170 million flight took off just before sunset from Launch Pad No. 1 at Kodiak Launch Complex. It pitched southeast from the Narrow Cape launch site, traversing the Pacific Ocean as it soared into the upper atmosphere within a handful of minutes.
A crystal clear moon-soaked sky greeted the gleaming white rocket, which was powered by leftover Peacekeeper missile stages to provide a low-cost launch option for its payload of military, NASA and university experiments.
All six payloads separated as scheduled within 32 minutes of liftoff.
0255 GMT Sat. (9:55 p.m. EST; 5:55 p.m. AST Fri.)
T+plus 1 hour, 30 minutes. HAPS cutoff! Applause just broke out in the control center as the hydrazine-fueled auxiliary propulsion system finished its second burn.
The HAPS burns placed the rocket in a circular orbit 746 miles above Earth with an inclination of 72 degrees, almost exactly the preflight target. The rocket was expected to release ballast weights before ending its mission.
0252 GMT Sat. (9:52 p.m. EST; 5:52 p.m. AST Fri.)
T+plus 1 hour, 27 minutes. The hydrazine kick engine is firing a second time to prove a new multi-orbit capability for the Minotaur 4 rocket.
0204 GMT Sat. (9:04 p.m. EST; 5:04 p.m. AST Fri.)
T+plus 39 minutes, 30 seconds. The first of two HAPS burns should be completed, but there is no confirmation of that milestone.
A second HAPS firing is planned to begin at T+plus 1 hour, 27 minutes to raise the orbital altitude from 400 miles to more than 700 miles.
0201 GMT Sat. (9:01 p.m. EST; 5:01 p.m. AST Fri.)
T+plus 36 minutes. The fourth stage has separated from the HAPS thruster system and the liquid-fueled engine has ignited for a demonstration of a new capability on Minotaur 4 rockets.
0156 GMT Sat. (8:56 p.m. EST; 4:56 p.m. AST Fri.)
T+plus 31 minutes, 50 seconds. The FASTRAC satellites have separated, ending the choreographed deployment sequence.
That completes the Minotaur's mission of delivering seven satellites to orbit, but engineers still plan a test of a hydrazine auxiliary propulsion system, or HAPS, that could enable future launches of spacecraft to multiple altitudes on a single flight.
0153 GMT Sat. (8:53 p.m. EST; 4:53 p.m. AST Fri.)
T+plus 28 minutes. One more payload, the University of Texas FASTRAC satellite pair, remains to be released from the Minotaur fourth stage. That milestone is scheduled for T+plus 31 minutes, 39 seconds.
0152 GMT Sat. (8:52 p.m. EST; 4:52 p.m. AST Fri.)
T+plus 27 minutes. FalconSat 5 separation confirmed.
0149 GMT Sat. (8:49 p.m. EST; 4:49 p.m. AST Fri.)
T+plus 24 minutes. All systems reported in good shape and the rocket is close to the predicted orbit.
0146 GMT Sat. (8:46 p.m. EST; 4:46 p.m. AST Fri.)
T+plus 21 minutes, 45 seconds. FASTSAT separation confirmed.
0145 GMT Sat. (8:45 p.m. EST; 4:45 p.m. AST Fri.)
T+plus 20 minutes. Officials now have positive confirmation of payload deployments so far. The rocket is now re-orienting for FASTSAT separation.
The STPSat 2, Radio Aurora Explorer and NASA's O/OREOS CubeSat were the first three payloads scheduled to be deployed.
0143 GMT Sat. (8:43 p.m. EST; 4:43 p.m. AST Fri.)
As expected, the rocket flew out of range of ground stations as it tracked downrange. Officials are working to restore communications through NASA's tracking satellites.
0141 GMT Sat. (8:41 p.m. EST; 4:41 p.m. AST Fri.)
T+plus 16 minutes. The rocket is out of communications range with ground stations and there is no communications with NASA's network of tracking satellites. So there is no insight into the fourth stage burn and payload separation milestones, which should be occuring now.
0137 GMT Sat. (8:37 p.m. EST; 4:37 p.m. AST Fri.)
T+plus 12 minutes, 45 seconds. The spent third stage is expected to release the Orion 38 fourth stage motor at T+plus 13 minutes, 21 seconds. The fourth stage will ignite 11 seconds later.
0136 GMT Sat. (8:36 p.m. EST; 4:36 p.m. AST Fri.)
T+plus 11 minutes. Altitude is 610 kilometers, downrange distance is 3,280 kilometers and velocity is 6.4 kilometers per second. Officials report all systems operating normal in this coast phase.
0131 GMT Sat. (8:31 p.m. EST; 4:31 p.m. AST Fri.)
T+plus 6 minutes, 45 seconds. Altitude is 450 kilometers, downrange distance is 1,850 kilometers, and velocity is 6.6 kilometers per second.
0130 GMT Sat. (8:30 p.m. EST; 4:30 p.m. AST Fri.)
T+plus 5 minutes. Flight continues to go well. The rocket is now 1,000 kilometers downrange.
0128 GMT Sat. (8:28 p.m. EST; 4:28 p.m. AST Fri.)
T+plus 3 minutes, 20 seconds. The third stage has expended its solid propellant and the rocket is now coasting through the upper reaches of the atmosphere to reach the planned insertion altitude of approximately 400 miles.
0127 GMT Sat. (8:27 p.m. EST; 4:27 p.m. AST Fri.)
T+plus 2 minutes, 30 seconds. The rocket has shed the payload fairing now that the vehicle is out of the dense lower atmosphere.
0127 GMT Sat. (8:27 p.m. EST; 4:27 p.m. AST Fri.)
T+plus 2 minutes. Telemetry engineers report a good separation of the second and third stages. The SR120 motor will fire for 72 seconds. Coming up on jettison of the Minotaur 4's nose cone.
0126 GMT Sat. (8:26 p.m. EST; 4:26 p.m. AST Fri.)
T+plus 1 minute. The first stage motor has burned out and separated from the second stage.
0125 GMT Sat. (8:25 p.m. EST; 4:25 p.m. AST Fri.)
T+plus 30 seconds. The Minotaur 4 rocket is passing Max-Q, the phase of maximum aerodynamic pressure.
0125 GMT Sat. (8:25 p.m. EST; 4:25 p.m. AST Fri.)
LIFTOFF. Liftoff of the Minotaur 4 rocket from Alaska with a cache of experiments to better serve future warfighters.
0124 GMT Sat. (8:24 p.m. EST; 4:24 p.m. AST Fri.)
T-minus 1 minute and counting.
0123 GMT Sat. (8:23 p.m. EST; 4:23 p.m. AST Fri.)
T-minus 2 minutes and counting. The countdown automatic sequence has started and final limit checks are go.
The safe-and-arm devices are being rotated to the arm position.
0121 GMT Sat. (8:21 p.m. EST; 4:21 p.m. AST Fri.)
T-minus 4 minutes and counting. The rocket's guidance system has been switched to navigation mode and the flight computer is armed for flight.
0120 GMT Sat. (8:20 p.m. EST; 4:20 p.m. AST Fri.)
T-minus 5 minutes and counting. The rocket is being switched to internal power.
0118 GMT Sat. (8:18 p.m. EST; 4:18 p.m. AST Fri.)
T-minus 6 minutes, 30 seconds. The launch decision authority has given final permission for launch.
0117 GMT Sat. (8:17 p.m. EST; 4:17 p.m. AST Fri.)
T-minus 8 minutes and counting. The destruct system has been armed for liftoff.
0115 GMT Sat. (8:15 p.m. EST; 4:15 p.m. AST Fri.)
T-minus 9 minutes, 30 seconds. The launch vehicle's flight termination system has been switched to internal power and the external power source has been turned off.
0113 GMT Sat. (8:13 p.m. EST; 4:13 p.m. AST Fri.)
T-minus 12 minutes and counting. The exact launch time is being programmed into the Minotaur 4 flight computer.
0111 GMT Sat. (8:11 p.m. EST; 4:11 p.m. AST Fri.)
T-minus 14 minutes and counting. The launch hazard area and impact limit lines are clear of personnel.
0110 GMT Sat. (8:10 p.m. EST; 4:10 p.m. AST Fri.)
T-minus 15 minutes and counting. All stations report they are go for launch at 4:25 p.m. local time (8:25 p.m. EST; 0125 GMT).
0108 GMT Sat. (8:08 p.m. EST; 4:08 p.m. AST Fri.)
T-minus 17 minutes and counting. Coming up on the final readiness check of the launch team.
0105 GMT Sat. (8:05 p.m. EST; 4:05 p.m. AST Fri.)
T-minus 20 minutes and counting. Upper and lower level winds are reported acceptable for flight.
0103 GMT Sat. (8:03 p.m. EST; 4:03 p.m. AST Fri.)
T-minus 22 minutes and counting. Today's flight is the first Minotaur 4 rocket mission from Kodiak Launch Complex. The state-owned facility hosted one previous orbital launch in 2001.
"On the launch vehicle side, this mission represents another significant milestone for the Minotaur program," Moran said. This will be the first launch for the Minotaur 4 vehicle from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Kodiak, Alaska, and the third launch of the Minotaur 4 system. Over the past 18 months, our combined government and industry team has done an absolutely phenomenal job overcoming challenges from the logistics of transporting rocket motors to Kodiak Island, to the integration of seven payloads and their 16 experiments onto the rocket, to the numerous launch vehicle and range activities necessary to achieve a successful mission."
The Minotaur 4 is based on retired Peacekeeper missile motors. A smaller Minotaur 1 rocket uses Minuteman stages.
"The Minotaur 4 will simultaneously lift four small satellites that would require four separate launches of the Minotaur 1 series," said Lt. Col. Timothy Cole, the launch vehicle program manager.
0057 GMT Sat. (7:57 p.m. EST; 3:57 p.m. AST Fri.)
T-minus 28 minutes and counting. The rocket's safety system is being turned on and tested.
0055 GMT Sat. (7:55 p.m. EST; 3:55 p.m. AST Fri.)
T-minus 30 minutes and counting. The Minotaur 4's telemetry transmitters are being powered on.
0049 GMT Sat. (7:49 p.m. EST; 3:49 p.m. AST Fri.)
T-minus 36 minutes and counting. There are no planned built-in holds during today's countdown.
It will take 31 minutes, 39 seconds to release all six satellites to be deployed during today's launch. The Minotaur 4 is targeting an initial orbital altitude of 400 miles.
The mission is being conducted by the Space Test Program, the military's research and development wing responsible for flight opportunities for emerging technologies.
Col. Michael Moran is the mission director for this launch.
"Since 1965, the Space Test Program an invaluable service to our nation by flying science and technology payloads that are fundamental to the DOD's approach to space acquisition and to the advancement of our nation's space capabilities," Moran said. "Extraordinary military capabilities, such as military satellite communications and the Global Positioning System, can trace their development back to earlier Space Test Program missions. Enabling technologies for those systems were incrementally demonstrated in the space environment by the spaceflight opportunities provided by STP."
0043 GMT Sat. (7:43 p.m. EST; 3:43 p.m. AST Fri.)
T-minus 42 minutes and counting. Engineers report the booster's navigation system is properly aligned for flight.
0041 GMT Sat. (7:41 p.m. EST; 3:41 p.m. AST Fri.)
"We are currently green and forecasting green on all constraints," the launch weather officer just reported to the control team.
0039 GMT Sat. (7:39 p.m. EST; 3:39 p.m. AST Fri.)
T-minus 46 minutes and counting. The Minotaur's inertial navigation system is being aligned for launch.
0035 GMT Sat. (7:35 p.m. EST; 3:35 p.m. AST Fri.)
T-minus 50 minutes and counting. All systems are reported go for launch right now. There are no issues with the rocket, payloads or the Kodiak range.
0025 GMT Sat. (7:25 p.m. EST; 3:25 p.m. AST Fri.)
T-minus 1 hour and counting. The countdown is entering the final phase and engineers are conducting final checks.
0010 GMT Sat. (7:10 p.m. EST; 3:10 p.m. AST Fri.)
A reminder if you will be away from your computer but would like to receive occasional countdown updates, sign up for our Twitter feed
to get text message updates on your cellphone. U.S. readers can also sign up from their phone by texting "follow spaceflightnow" to 40404. (Standard text messaging charges apply.)
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2010
2349 GMT (6:49 p.m. EST; 2:49 p.m. AST)
NEW LAUNCH TIME. The launch team has adjusted the T-0 one minute later in the window. New launch time is 4:25 p.m. local time (8:25 p.m. EST; 0125 GMT).
2324 GMT (6:24 p.m. EST; 2:24 p.m. AST)
T-minus 2 hours and counting. The launch vehicle is now armed for flight and crews are leaving the pad and clearing the danger area surrounding the complex. The final countdown checklist begins in one hour.
2258 GMT (5:58 p.m. EST; 1:58 p.m. AST)
The launch weather officer just reported he expects conditions to be favorable throughout tonight's 90-minute launch window.
Booster exposure limits are also reported to be acceptable for the duration of the window. And a status check of the launch team concluded with a "go" for final vehicle arming.
2234 GMT (5:34 p.m. EST; 1:34 p.m. AST)
The next step in the countdown is final arming of the Minotaur 4 launch vehicle.
The latest check of weather conditions shows a current temperature of 44 degrees Fahrenheit, light northwesterly winds and clear skies.
2227 GMT (5:27 p.m. EST; 1:27 p.m. AST)
T-minus 2 hours, 57 minutes. After discussing the navigation system issue, the launch team determined the system is working properly. Controllers are now powering down the launch vehicle following this series of tests.
2206 GMT (5:06 p.m. EST; 1:06 p.m. AST)
Engineers are analyzing a discrepancy between the rocket's inertial measurement unit and GPS data.
2140 GMT (4:40 p.m. EST; 12:40 p.m. AST)
The launch team is activating and initializing the rocket's GPS navigation instrument and inertial navigation system for prelaunch checks. No issues are being worked in the countdown at this point.
This evening's Delta 4-Heavy launch from Cape Canaveral has been scrubbed.
2116 GMT (4:16 p.m. EST; 12:16 p.m. AST)
Tower rollback is now complete at Launch Pad No. 1 and the 78-foot-tall Minotaur 4 rocket is now exposed at Kodiak Launch Complex. More launch vehicle closeouts and rocket motor arming are planned during the next two hours.
2050 GMT (3:50 p.m. EST; 11:50 a.m. AST)
The launch service structure is beginning to retract away from the Minotaur 4 rocket at Kodiak Launch Complex. A protective door will first open to reveal the booster inside the tower enclosure, then the structure will open on rail tracks to a position on the back side of the pad.
The mobile tower at Launch Pad No. 1 is similar in design to the rotating service structure used on the space shuttle launch pad.
Owned by Alaska Aerospace Corp., the Kodiak Launch Complex is situated on Narrow Cape. Locals refer to the site as "the other Cape" in reference fo the more famous launch range in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
AAC modified the launch pad to support Minotaur 4 rockets. Originally built to specifications for the Athena launch vehicle, the pad configuration was changed by cutting a larger door to support the installation of the longer Minotaur first stage.
2024 GMT (3:24 p.m. EST; 11:24 a.m. AST)
T-minus 5 hours and counting. We are now streaming audio as the launch team begins the preflight checklist to ready the Minotaur 4 rocket for liftoff this afternoon.
Tower retraction at Launch Pad No. 1 should start soon.
1959 GMT (2:59 p.m. EST; 10:59 a.m. AST)
T-minus 5 hours, 25 minutes. The launch team is assembling inside the control center about 2 miles north of Launch Pad No. 1. Nearly 50 senior managers and engineers from the Air Force, Orbital Sciences and Alaska Aerospace occupy the control room during countdown operations.
Launch team voice checks are now underway.
The launch pad crew is also completing final inspections of the Minotaur 4 rocket before the clamshell-like service structure retracts. The tower is scheduled to move around 12 p.m. Alaska time (4 p.m. EST; 2100 GMT).
The four-stage rocket is made of three rocket motors from the Peacekeeper missile program. An Orion 38 fourth stage will place the mission's seven payloads into a 400-mile-high orbit inclined 72 degrees to the equator.
The first stage is a Peacekeeper SR118 motor manufactured by ATK. The second stage SR119 motor was originally built by Aerojet, and ATK was the contractor for the Peacekeeper's SR120 third stage.
ATK is also the builder of the Orion 38 fourth stage.
1940 GMT (2:40 p.m. EST; 10:40 a.m. AST)
The Air Force has just released the timeline
of today's Minotaur 4 mission.
After liftoff from Kodiak, the 78-foot-tall rocket will fly on the power of three solid-fueled motors from stockpiles of retired Peacekeeper ICBMs.
Propelled by 500,000 pounds of thrust, the Minotaur 4 will pass through Max-Q, the regime of flight with the most extreme atmospheric pressures, 35 seconds after liftoff. The first stage will jettison and second stage will ignite 57 seconds into the mission.
At T+plus 1 minute, 56 seconds, the second stage will yield to the Minotaur third stage. Separation of the rocket's 92-inch payload fairing is set for T+plus 2 minutes, 20 seconds.
Third stage burnout is expected T+plus 3 minutes, 8 seconds, followed by a coast of more than 10 minutes to reach orbital insertion altitude.
The third stage and Orion 38 fourth stage motor will separate at T+plus 13 minutes, 21 seconds. The Orion 38 motor will fire at T+plus 13 minutes, 32 seconds to accelerate the rocket to orbital velocity. Fourth stage shutdown is scheduled for T+plus 14 minutes, 39 seconds.
The rocket should reach a 400-mile-high circular orbit with an inclination of 72 degrees.
Deployment of the STPSat 2 primary payload is programmed for T+plus 16 minutes, 39 seconds.
The Radio Aurora Explorer and NASA's O/OREOS triple CubeSat should be ejected from its P-POD container at one-minute intervals after STPSat 2 separation.
NASA's FASTSAT spacecraft should be deployed at T+plus 21 minutes, 39 seconds. The Air Force Academy's FalconSat 5 satellite separation is expected at T+plus 26 minutes, 39 seconds.
The FASTRAC satellite pair from the University of Texas will be released at T+plus 31 minutes, 39 seconds.
Three minutes later, the Minotaur fourth stage will cut free from the hydrazine auxiliary propulsion system, which will fire twice to raise the vehicle's orbit to an altitude of more than 700 miles. The HAPS thruster will release ballast weights at T+plus 1 hour, 33 minutes, to simulate a secondary payload deployment sequence.
1915 GMT (2:15 p.m. EST; 10:15 a.m. AST)
Meteorologists still predict near ideal conditions at Kodiak Launch Complex this evening. There is no chance of a weather rule violations.
Winds are expected between 10 and 20 mph and the high temperature will be 44 degrees Fahrenheit.
The weather forecast for the next few days has worsened. There is now a 30 percent chance of weather prohibitng launch Saturday and 40 percent chance of unacceptable weather Sunday.
0915 GMT (4:15 a.m. EST; 12:15 a.m. AST)
In a business where mission costs are often measured in billions of dollars, the $170 million value of Friday's rideshare rocket launch from Alaska seems like a bargain. It is, according to U.S. Air Force officials.
Read our full story.
0445 GMT Fri. (11:45 p.m. EST; 7:45 p.m. AST Thurs.)
Launch crews completed arming the Minotaur 4 rocket today and prepared to start the final countdown before Friday evening's sunset blastoff from Kodiak Island in Alaska.
"The team has completed final arming," said Lou Amorosi, senior vice president for Minotaur launch vehicles at Orbital Sciences Corp. "We are just wrapping up final paper work and going through the post-launch scripts. The weather, right now, looks good for tomorrow and Saturday."
The latest weather forecast predicts sunny to partly cloudy skies, southwest winds between 10 and 20 mph. The high temperature Friday is expected to be 42 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill of 34 degrees Fahrenheit.
There is no chance of a violation of one of the launch weather rules Friday. Conditions should also be favorable Saturday, with mostly cloudy skies and a 10 percent chance of weather prohibiting liftoff.
In an interview this afternoon, Amorosi said workers were installing access doors on the rocket and removing pins from ordnance devices along the length of the 78-foot-tall booster.
Countdown operations are scheduled to begin Friday morning. Retraction of the launch service structure at Launch Pad No. 1 is expected around 12 p.m. Alaska time (4 p.m. EST; 2100 GMT).
The mission's 90-minute launch window opens at 4:24 p.m. Alaska time (8:24 p.m. EST; 0124 GMT Saturday).
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2010
0340 GMT Thurs. (10:40 p.m. EST; 6:40 p.m. AST Wed.)
Government and contractor officials today cleared the Minotaur 4 rocket for liftoff Friday from Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska.
Managers gathered in Kodiak for a launch readiness review to discuss preparations of the Minotaur rocket, Kodiak range and seven satellites stored inside the vehicle's nose cone.
Launch is scheduled for a 90-minute window opening at 4:24 p.m. Alaska time (8:24 p.m. EST; 0124 GMT Saturday). The 78-foot-tall rocket will lift off from the Kodiak Launch Complex and head southeast across the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean.
The Minotaur 4's payloads include 16 experiments for the U.S. military, NASA and university students. The mission is codenamed STP-S26, signifying the 26th small launch vehicle flight in the history of the Department of Defense's Space Test Program.
Col. Michael Moran, the STP-S26 mission director, provided the following statement at the conclusion of today's launch readiness review:
"Today's successful launch readiness review marked the final pre-launch mission status review for the STP-S26 launch campaign. Alaska Aerospace Corporation has given us a launch-ready range, and we have a healthy rocket and spacecraft complement," Moran said.
"I am extremely proud of the dedicated professionals across our integrated government and industry team whose hard work brought us to this point. Our mission doesn't end with the Minotaur 4 launch this Friday, it begins," Moran said. "Once these spacecraft are safely on orbit, the STP-S26 mission will start demonstrating the science and technology capabilities on which future warfighters will depend. Go Minotaur 4, go STP-S26!"
Wednesday's activities at Launch Pad No. 1 included communications checks and range testing of the flight termination system, the destruct mechanism used to end the flight if it threatens personnel or property.
The launch team accomplished a mission dress rehearsal Monday to simulate the steps of the final countdown.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2010
1930 GMT (2:30 p.m. EST; 10:30 a.m. AST)
The launch service door at Kodiak has been retracted briefly this morning for range communications checks and flight termination system testing.
The weather outlook for Friday calls for favorable conditions at launch time. Meteorologists predict no chance for a weather violation during the launch window, which opens at 4:24 p.m. Alaska time (8:24 p.m. EST; 0124 GMT Saturday) and extends for 90 minutes.
Forecasters expect sunny to partly cloudy skies, west winds at 10 to 20 mph, and an afternoon high temperature of 42 degrees Fahrenheit.
Current conditions at Kodiak are a temperature of 37 degrees Fahrenheit and brisk winds of about 20 mph with gusts near 30 mph at the launch pad.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2010
2345 GMT (6:45 p.m. EST; 2:45 p.m. AST)
For less than $1 million, scientists are planning to show off an innovative solar sail experiment beginning with a blastoff from the Alaska frontier Friday, proving new propulsion technologies that could help rid space of unnecessary debris.
Read our full story.
0405 GMT Tues. (11:05 p.m. EST; 7:05 p.m. AST Mon.)
Workers at Launch Pad No. 1 at the Kodiak Launch Complex have swiveled the clamshell service structure back around the Minotaur 4 rocket following today's countdown rehearsal.
0146 GMT Tues. (8:46 p.m. EST; 4:46 p.m. AST Mon.)
The practice countdown reached a simulated T-0 at 4:46 p.m. Alaska time. Launch team is now safing the rocket and backing out of countdown preps.
0108 GMT Tues. (8:08 p.m. EST; 4:08 p.m. AST Mon.)
Today's countdown rehearsal has reached the final minutes before the simulated T-0. Officials are practicing resolving issues in the countdown as an exercise before Friday's launch.
Check out a photo gallery showing the launch service structure retracting from the Minotaur 4 rocket this afternoon.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2010
2045 GMT (3:45 p.m. EST; 11:45 a.m. AST)
The Minotaur launch team is practicing the countdown sequence today for Friday's scheduled liftoff from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska.
The countdown rehearsal is a final chance for crews to practice procedures and plans for the countdown, which gets underway in the late morning and continues through a simulated T-0 at 4:24 p.m. Alaska time.
Technicians will soon retract the launch service structure at the pad, revealing the 78-foot-tall Minotaur 4 rocket on the coast of Kodiak Island.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2010
2230 GMT (5:30 p.m. EST; 1:30 p.m. AST)
The Minotaur 4 rocket launching next week will lift nearly 1,300 pounds of cargo into orbit, encompassing technology and research investigations on a cost-sharing mission managed by the U.S. Air Force.
The booster will deploy six satellites less than a half-hour after blasting off from Kodiak Island, Alaska. One more CubeSat payload will be ejected from NASA's FASTSAT spacecraft after the launch is completed.
Four satellites, each about the size of a compact refrigerator, are mounted on the Minotaur's main payload adapter.
- STPSat 2 is the first flight of a new Standard Interface Vehicle designed to host plug-and-play science experiments and technology demonstrations. STPSat 2 was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. and carries two payloads to relay ocean buoy data and check the compatibility of sensors in the space environment.
- FASTSAT, or the Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite, is a spacecraft that was designed, developed and tested at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., in partnership with the Von Braun Center for Science & Innovation and Dynetics Inc. of Huntsville. FASTSAT features three atmospheric experiments, two technology demos and a deployable CubeSat named NanoSail-D that will unfurl a thin solar sail membrane for maneuvers in low Earth orbit.
- FASTRAC, or the Formation Autonomous Spacecraft with Thruster, Relnav, Attitude and Crosslink, consists of two drum-sized satellites that will split apart once in space. Built by students at the University of Texas at Austin, the pair will test autonomous formation-flying through crosslink communications and GPS navigation. One of the spacecraft also carries a micro-discharge plasma thruster.
- FalconSat 5 is a cadet-built spacecraft from the U.S. Air Force Academy. Two payloads on FalconSat 5 include a small Hall Effect thruster for attitude control and an electrostatic analyzer/spectrometer suite to observe the effect of thruster plumes on the surrounding space environment.
The Minotaur's satellite cache also includes two small CubeSats about the size of a loaf of bread. The O/OREOS spacecraft from NASA's Ames Research Center will study the effects of space radiation on organisms and organic molecules. The Radio Aurora Explorer, or RAX, from the University of Michigan and SRI International will measure energy flows in the ionosphere.
1715 GMT (12:15 p.m. EST; 8:15 a.m. AST)
Seven satellites will share a ride to space on a Minotaur rocket next Friday, launching from the southern shore of Alaska to an orbital perch more than 400 miles above Earth with a legion of U.S. military, NASA and university experiments.
Read our full story.
And check out a photo gallery showing preparations of the satellite payloads.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2010
Working on a remote island in southwest Alaska, launch crews are putting the finishing touches on a Minotaur 4 rocket scheduled for blastoff Nov. 19 with seven research satellites.
The cache of U.S. Air Force, NASA and university payloads are already bolted to the Minotaur rocket. Launch officials are now testing the 78-foot-tall booster's electrical and hydraulic systems. A countdown dress rehearsal is planned Monday.
It will be the third launch of the Minotaur 4 rocket, a launch vehicle comprised of surplus Peacekeeper missile parts and private motors from the air-launched Pegasus booster.
The Minotaur 4 rocket will lift off at 4:24 p.m. Alaska time (8:24 p.m. Eastern time) from Launch Pad No. 1 at the Kodiak Launch Complex.
Watch for a comprehensive coverage of launch preparations and the countdown next week. Spaceflight Now will also be streaming live video from Kodiak during the countdown and launch.