An Orbital Sciences Corporation Taurus rocket, carrying the U.S. Department of Energy’s Multispectral Thermal Imager (MTI) satellite, is set for launch Sunday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Liftoff is set for 4:21 a.m. EST to 4:49 a.m. (EST) (0921-0949 GMT). The mission was recently delayed for about two weeks pending the resolution by U.S. Air Force officials of an issue involving a small inhabited island in French Polynesia that was thought to be in the area where the Taurus rocket’s third stage was projected to return to Earth. After careful evaluation, Air Force officials have determined that the island is outside of the area where the expended rocket motor is likely to land.

On launch day, the Taurus rocket will be prepared for its mission during a two-hour countdown procedure. Following a final launch decision, the vehicle will ignite its first stage rocket motor, lift off and follow a pre-programmed launch sequence controlled by its onboard flight computer. A little more than 12 minutes after liftoff, Taurus will deliver the MTI spacecraft into a sun-synchronous orbit approximately 310 nautical miles (575 kilometers) above the Earth.

About the MTI satellite

The MTI satellite carries a sophisticated telescope that collects images of the Earth, during the day and at night, in 15 spectral bands, ranging from the visible to long-wave infrared. The unique imaging instrument was designed and built by a government and industry team led by Sandia National Laboratories and was calibrated in a special facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The instrument gives the satellite the ability to “see” reflected and thermally radiated electromagnetic waves not visible to the human eye with performance parameters previously achievable only in laboratory settings. To learn more about the satellite and its mission, visit the the Web page at

About the Taurus rocket

Orbital developed the ground-launched Taurus vehicle to provide a cost-effective, reliable means of launching satellites weighing up to 3,000 pounds into low-Earth orbit, or up to 800 pounds into geosynchronous Earth orbit. Taurus incorporates advanced structural and avionics technology proven on Pegasus and other operational launch systems. It is also designed for easy transportability, offering customers rapid-response launches from a wide range of locations. Including its debut flight in 1994, Orbital’s Taurus rocket has carried out four space missions, all of which have been successful. The most recent Taurus mission occurred on December 20, 1999, when the rocket deployed two satellites – the KOMPSAT satellite for the Republic of Korea and the ACRIMSAT satellite for NASA.