The U.S. Air Force and its mission partners successfully launched the ORS-5 satellite on an Orbital ATK Minotaur IV Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Aug. 26, at 2:04 a.m..m. EDT
“The hard work and dedication of the launch team and its mission partners has absolutely paid off,” stated Col Shahnaz Punjani, Director of the Operationally Responsive Space Office. “Today’s launch of ORS-5 culminates a fast-paced and very demanding effort by a broad team of government and industry professionals.”
The spacecraft separated from the upper stage approximately 28 minutes after launch. Engineers and operators will now begin complete checkout and tests in preparation for operational use.
“The capabilities ORS-5 brings to the nation are ushering in a new era of faster, cheaper satellite development. ORS-5 will deliver global, persistent, optical tracking of satellites in geosynchronous orbit, enabling the nation to have increased global situational awareness of space objects,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center and Air Force program executive officer for Space.
At $87.5 million, the ORS-5 satellite will operate from a low inclination orbit 372 miles above the earth to aid the U.S. military’s tracking of other satellites and space debris in geosynchronous orbit, 22,236 miles above the equator, commonly used by defense-related communications satellites, television broadcasting stations, and international space platforms. ORS-5 will deliver space situational awareness capabilities at a significantly reduced cost compared to larger, more complex satellites, and serves as a gap filler mission for the Space-Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) Block 10 mission, originally launched in 2010. A successor SBSS mission is not expected to launch before 2021.
Additionally, three CubeSats — two from Los Alamos National Laboratory, and one from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, were aboard the Minotaur IV launch vehicle via a rideshare agreement, resulting in a lower price to the government for the launch.
The ORS-5 program is managed by the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Operationally Responsive Space Office, located at the Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts, is the prime space vehicle contractor.
The launch was led by SMC’s Launch Enterprise Directorate on the first Orbital ATK Minotaur IV launch from Cape Canaveral. SMC’s Advanced Systems and Development Directorate integrated the ground system into its Multi-Mission Space Operations Center (MMSOC) version 2.1. ORS-5 is the first system on the updated ground system, which serves as the foundation for Enterprise Ground Services. Air Force Space Command’s 50th Space Wing/1st Space Operations Squadron, will operate the ORS-5 system.
The ORS-5 program is designed to deliver timely, reliable and accurate space situational awareness information to the United States Strategic Command through the Joint Space Operations Center. The system enhances space tracking capability, supports the nation’s space programs, and bolsters safety of satellites in geosynchronous orbits.
Air Force Space Command’s Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, Calif., is the U.S. Air Force’s center of acquisition excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes the Global Positioning System, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space based infrared systems and space situational awareness capabilities.
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