SkySat and Dove Satellites Launch Aboard Orbital ATK Minotaur-C

Orbital ATK has successfully deployed 10 SkySat and Dove satellites into orbit. Yesterday’s launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California was the first for the company’s brand new Minotaur-C launch vehicle.

The Orbital ATK Minotaur-C left the launch pad at Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 576E at 5:37 p.m. EDT (2:37 p.m. local time, 2137 GMT). Just over 21 minutes later all six Earth-imaging SkySat satellites and four Dove CubeSats were successfully deployed. The mission was not without its hiccups though. Shortly after launch, Sean Wilson, director of corporate communications for Orbital ATK, reported a loss in telemetry with the Minotaur-C. Fortunately, telemetry was quickly restored and the rest of the mission proceeded without incident.

Yesterday’s Orbital ATK SkySat mission was for commercial imaging provider, Planet. The company provides global imagining for businesses, governments, and NGOs from around the world.

The launch was the company’s 20th adding to an orbiting fleet that boasts over 271 Dove satellites and 13 SkySats, a record-breaking fleet complement. Additionally, the 10 new satellites integrated advanced new propulsion systems developed by Dutch-Swedish company Bradford Engineering. The Ecological Advanced Propulsion Systems (ECAPS) run on High-Performance Green Propulsion (HPGP) thrusters that eliminate the need for the highly toxic hydrazine used in many other propulsion systems.

Orbital ATK’s new Minotaur-C launch vehicle is an upgraded variant of the Taurus XL. Following a number of launch failures that included the loss of NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory, the company took the Taurus XL back to the design phase. Using lessons learned from the Minotaur family, Pegasus and Taurus XL, the launch provider developed the Minotaur-C, a launch vehicle that shares many of the aesthetics of the XL.

The Minotaur family boasts a 100 percent launch success record, a record that Orbital ATK are eager to continue with the Minotaur-C.

Image Credit: Orbital ATK

Andrew Parsonson is a space enthusiast and the founder of Rocket Rundown. He has worked as a journalist and blogger for various industries for over 5 years and has a passion for both fictional and real-life space travel. Currently, Andrew is the primary writer for Rocket Rundown as we look to expand our reach and credibility.