A Rocket powered by remnants of a Cold War nuclear missile bolted from Cape Canaveral early Saturday with an Air Force satellite that will track threats to military spacecraft orbiting high overhead.
Orbital ATK’s Minotaur IV, making its first flight from Florida, shot from long-dormant Launch Complex 46 at 2:04 a.m., catapulted by 500,000 pounds of thrust generated by the first of three decommissioned Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missile motors.
From that vantage point, the $87.5 million mission will survey a region 22,000 miles higher up known as geostationary orbit or the “GEO belt,” home to critical national security satellites providing intelligence, communications, missile warning and weather data.
“This is all part of the U.S. military’s renewed concern about being able to detect potential threats to its satellites in geostationary orbit,” said Brian Weeden, director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation.
The office is charged with quickly fielding lower-cost missions that accept greater risk of failure, a much different approach from traditional programs that might take a decade or more and cost billions of dollars to develop.
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