Taurus XL rocket wins commercial launch order
Posted: June 18, 2001

File image of Taurus rocket lifting off. Photo: Orbital Sciences
Orbital Sciences has sold its first Taurus XL rocket, a more powerful version of the company's ground-launched vehicle. The mission will carry a Taiwanese remote sensing satellite into orbit in 2003 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The Republic of China's National Space Program Office's ROCSAT-2 satellite is designed to observe the terrestrial and marine environment and natural resources throughout Taiwan, its remote islands and surrounding ocean.

Applications of such data include agriculture and forestry, land use management, natural disaster evaluation, environmental monitoring, education, and foster international cooperation in scientific research.

The spacecraft also carries a Sprites Imager scientific instrument to study the electrodynamical coupling between thunderclouds and the upper atmosphere by taking images of lightning discharges.

Illustration of ROCSAT-2. Photo: NSPO
"The ROCSAT-2 contract award demonstrates that the international space community continues to embrace Orbital's family of reliable space launch vehicles," said Ronald Grabe, executive vice president and general manager of Orbital's Launch Systems Group. "We are very appreciative of the National Space Program Office's confidence in our team and we look forward to carrying out a successful mission for them."

The ROCSAT-1 satellite was launched in 1999 by Taurus' rival - the Lockheed Martin Athena rocket. Lockheed Martin had hoped to win the ROCSAT-2 launch, but lost out.

The Taurus rocket is a four-stage vehicle derived from Orbital's Pegasus vehicle. The XL version features bigger second and third stages (Orion 50S-XL and Orion 50XL, respectively).

The Taurus has flown five times with a 100 percent success rate since debuting in 1994.

Besides the ROCSAT-2 launch, Taurus has just one other flight on the books - a mission this August carrying the OrbView-4 Earth-imaging satellite and NASA's QuikTOMS ozone monitoring spacecraft.