Next Up: Launch of 29 Satellites on One Rocket from Wallops Tomorrow

Next Up: Launch of 29 Satellites on One Rocket from Wallops Tomorrow

With the MAVEN mission safely on its way to Mars, attention can now turn to another interesting launch coming up tomorrow.  This one will give people along the East Coast another chance to see an orbital launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the coast of Virginia and this one will put 29 satellites into orbit at once.

The primary purpose is to launch an Air Force Space Test Program satellite (STPSat3) as part of the Pentagon’s Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) program. STPSat3 is a technology demonstration mission. The ORS program is intended to demonstrate the ability to build and launch satellites to meet specific needs in less time than traditional satellites.  This is third in the series and the overall mission is designated ORS-3.

Weather permitting, the launch at 7:30 pm Eastern Standard Time (EST) should be visible along a wide swath of the East Coast from northern Florida to southern Canada and as far west as Indiana.   Orbital Sciences Corporation has posted several maps on its website showing the areas where it will be visible if the weather cooperates.

Source:  Orbital Sciences Corporation website

Orbital provides the Minotaur rockets, which use refurbished Minuteman II motors for the first and second stages.  Several versions of Minotaur are available.  The one being launched tomorrow is a Minotaur I, which has two additional commercially-provided motors.  Minotaur I is  a relatively small space launch vehicle that can put just 580 kilograms (about 1,300 pounds) into low Earth orbit, but in an era of tiny “cubesats,” it can launch quite a few at a time.  Tomorrow’s launch will take 28 cubesats into space along with STPSat3.   A standard cubesat is 10 x 10 x 10 centimeters (designated as 1U for 1 unit), and several can be grouped together to provide more volume. 1U, 2U and 3U cubesats are common. 

Bob Christy at has a list of them.   Some are military, some are from NASA, some are from universities (many built through NASA’s ELaNa program), and one is from the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, reportedly the first cubesat built by high school students.  Orbital partnered with the high school to build the satellite and describes it as a phonetic voice synthesizer that can convert text to voice and transmit the voice back to Earth over amateur radio frequencies.

The launch window is open from 7:30 – 9:15 pm EST (though some of the NASA webpages say 9:30 instead of 9:15).   Wallops will provide launch coverage beginning at 6:30 pm EST via Ustream.   Launch opportunities are available through November 26 if needed.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.