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Lightbulb Minotaur I launch with STPSat-3 and 28 cubesats (ORS-3 mission), November 19/20, 2013
by Galactic Penguin SST 11-19-2013, 10:16 AM

It's something that has never happened before in the history of spaceflight - in the matter of just above 30 hours, 2 rockets will deploy an astonishing number of over 60 satellites from institutions all around the world - most of them weighing less than 10 kilograms, but representing the hard work and design from hundreds, if not thousands of students, volunteers and professionals from universities and research organizations.

The first of the two launches is an all-USA combination, with 29 different payloads now sitting on a Minotaur I rocket at Wallops Island waiting for launch in just 15 hours from now (planned at 7:30 pm EST today / 00:30 UTC tomorrow). It has already broken the record of the most active payloads on an orbital bound rocket - and if successful it will broke the record of the most number of satellites deployed by a single rocket as well. Unfortunately this record will stand for just 30 hours.... (more on that later)

Launch of Minotaur I/ORS-3 *Click here to restart the timer* minutes*Click here to restart the timer*

This launch is known as the ORS-3 mission, as it is co-ordinated by the Operationally Responsive Space Office of the US Department of Defense. Being the pioneering agency for providing quick-response tactical space-based capabilities to the US military by making use of small satellites, it has already proven its capabilities with the TacSat series (TacSat-2/3 for imagery and TacSat-4 for communications) and the operational ORS-1 imaging satellite. On this launch ORS plans to demonstrate the ability to deploy large number of small satellites from a single rocket, deployment procedures avoiding contact between the satellites, autonomous range safety systems and trajectory planning.

The main payload comes from the US Air Force's long running Space Test Program. STPSat-3 will carry 5 experiments from the military to test various space awareness sensors and measurements of the space environment:

* iMESA-R (Integrated Miniaturized Electrostatic Analyzer Reflight), a U.S. Air Force Academy mission designed to measure plasma densities and energies,

* J-CORE (Joint Component Research), a space phenomenology mission sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) /EO Countermeasures Technology Branch (RYMW) & Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC),

* SSU (Strip Sensor Unit), an AFRL Directed Energy (RD) experiment to provide risk reduction through on-orbit testing and operation of a sensor assembly,

* SWATS (Small Wind and Temperature Spectrometer), a Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) mission to provide in-situ measurements of the neutral and plasma environment to characterize the Earth’s ionosphere and thermosphere,

* TCTE (TSI Calibration Transfer Experiment), a NASA/NOAA mission to collect high accuracy, high precision measurements of Total Solar Irradiance to monitor changes in solar irradiance incident at the top the Earth’s atmosphere with TCTE instrument provided by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.

And there are of course the cubesats from various institutions in the US. 13 of them are from NASA's ELaNa 4 (Educational Launch of Nanosatellites) program, hitchhiking on 5 cubesats launchers. Another 10 are from the military or related agencies with the assistance of the USAF. Notable satellites includes yet another PhoneSat from NASA's Goddard Space Center; the first ever satellite built by high-school students, TJ³Sat of Thomas Jefferson High School of Alexandria, Virginia; and one pair of cubesats that will test key components for a future cubesat lunar orbiter and lander mission from the University of Vermont.

NASA TV's Wallops Flight Facility channel will provide live coverage: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-tv-wallops

Launch timeline, photos of the rocket and more reading materials coming soon.....
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Old 11-19-2013, 05:38 PM   #3
Galactic Penguin SST
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Expect a light show from this launch over the East Coast! Like the LADEE launch 2 months earlier, the night time launch of the Minotaur should be visible as a fast-streaking light dot (maybe slightly dimmer) over the clear East Coast skies. Check the graphs below for viewing opportunities:
























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Old 11-19-2013, 11:46 PM   #4
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Currently holding at T-1 hour due to a tracking station issue. The launch window extends through to 9:15 pm EST (02:15 UTC).
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Old 11-19-2013, 11:47 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Galactic Penguin SST View Post
 Currently holding at T-1 hour due to a tracking station issue. The launch window extends through to 9:15 pm EST (02:15 UTC).
Countdown however must resume by 7:15 pm EST in order to make the window.
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Old 11-19-2013, 11:51 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveS View Post
 Countdown however must resume by 7:15 pm EST in order to make the window.
I think you meant 8:15 pm. In any case it seems that the issue has just been resolved.
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Old 11-20-2013, 12:15 AM   #7
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Now T-1 hour and counting for a liftoff time at 8:15 pm EST (01:15 UTC).
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Old 11-20-2013, 01:31 AM   #8
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T-17 minutes and counting.

All systems remain GO.

---------- Post added at 17:20 ---------- Previous post was at 16:58 ----------

Launch is good so far...

---------- Post added at 17:31 ---------- Previous post was at 17:20 ----------

S/C sep and LOS. Coverage has ended.
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Old 11-20-2013, 01:31 AM   #9
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A little anticlimactic, but I am a ways north of it.
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Old 11-20-2013, 01:34 AM   #10
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Old 11-20-2013, 01:35 AM   #11
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I'm getting used to seeing space launches from outside my front door . More Wallops Island launches please!
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Old 11-20-2013, 01:56 AM   #12
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Damn...that Minotaur sure gets out of town quickly. Best use of ICBMs I can see.
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Old 11-20-2013, 03:07 AM   #13
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Yup. Those Minotaurs really get up and GO.
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Old 11-21-2013, 02:21 PM   #14
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For shots over the East Coast, see http://www.spaceflightnow.com/minota...longexposures/
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