The Air Force on Nov. 19 successfully launched its Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) and Space Test Program (STP) satellites from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia, according to a service statement.
The satellites were carried aboard an Orbital Sciences [ORB] Minotaur I launch vehicle with STPSat-3 launched along with numerous CubeSats as part of the ORS-3 mission. Spacecraft separation occurred shortly after liftoff at approximately 7:30 p.m. EST and all 29 payloads were successfully delivered to the desired orbit. Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. [BLL] developed STPSat-3. STP serves as the primary provider of mission design, spacecraft acquisition, launch and on-orbit operations for the Defense Department’s most innovative space experiments, technologies and demonstrations, according to the Air Force.
The ORS-3 mission, also known as the Enabler Mission, demonstrates launch and range improvements including automated vehicle trajectory targeting, range safety planning and flight termination, a commercial-like procurement and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) licensing of the Minotaur I rocket and the Integrated Payload Stack consisting of 29 spacecraft. These enablers not only focus on the ability to execute a rapid call-up mission, but they also automate engineering tasks, which reduce timelines from months to days, and in some cases, hours, according to the Air Force.
The launch demonstrated a commercial-like approach to government launches in an effort to reduce overall costs, Orbital said in a statement. Through this mission, Orbital also supported the development of new technologies for launch and range improvements including automated targeting, range tracking and flight termination systems.