Space and Missile Systems Center Public Affairs
Eighty minutes after a refurbished Minotaur rocket lifted off the launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., recently, ground stations in Europe began receiving signals from MightySat II.1, an Air Force experimental platform satellite.
"Solar arrays extended, antennas pointed sunward and everything is working according to plan," said Col. Dan Dansro, deputy director for Space and Missile Systems Center Test and Evaluation Directorate at Kirtland AFB, N.M.
"This successful launch has shown we can place a low-cost research bus satellite into orbit that will provide research and great benefits for our nation," Dansro said.
MightySat II.1, built by Spectrum Astro Inc., of Gilbert, Ariz., for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate is a small, multi-mission satellite that will demonstrate on-orbit, high payoff space system technologies. The $21.5 million project extends for one year and will perform 10 experiments. The satellite weighs 266 pounds.
"Perhaps the most important aspect of the on board tests," said SMC/TE’s Capt. Mark Mocio, MightySat II.1 space test program mission manager at Kirtland, "is the hyperspectral imagery experiment. This test will help us discern unique objects on the ground using solar energy.
"The new technology will establish specific signatures for concrete, mud or other objects that will eventually assist a battlefield commander with making effective tactical decisions about how to move ground troops or equipment," Mocio said.
The four-stage Minotaur rocket is a refurbished Minuteman II missile decommissioned as a result of arms reduction treaties. It was provided by the Air Force to Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., and used Air Force-supplied motors in the first and second stages. Orbital provided third and fourth stages from their Pegasus rocket. This is the second successful launch of the Minotaur rocket, the first being launched in January carrying 11 small satellites into space.