Satellite rides into space via converted missile parts

Private space-flight company Orbital ATK built the rocket, a five-stage Minotaur IV. Its first three stages are derived from a decommissioned intercontinental ballistic missile.
By Linda Mack | Aug 31, 2017
The U.S. Air Force used a rocket built with parts of a nuclear missile to launch a defense satellite into space Saturday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The satellite, a SensorSat spacecraft, will help the military keep track of the myriad chunks of space debris floating above Earth.
Private space-flight company Orbital ATK built the rocket, a five-stage Minotaur IV. Its first three stages are derived from a decommissioned intercontinental ballistic missile.
On top of the three converted-missile stages were a pair of Orion 38 stages, both built by Orbital ATK. The company's rockets usually include only one Orion 38 stage, but this rocket had two to help steer the satellite toward its destination point.
The launch succeeded and deployed the satellite within a half-hour to an orbital point about 370 miles above the equator. The satellite will follow an orbit at this point and turn its sensors outward to track an orbital zone about 22,000 miles higher up.
This higher region is known as "geostationary orbit" and is where commercial and national-security satellites that provide critical military and weather data operate. The SensorSat satellite will watch the geostationary-situated satellites from below to keep a lookout for space debris or any other objects that threaten them.
"It's sort of analogous to a surveillance radar at an airport, which goes around and around and around and around, surveilling the domain," said Grant Stokes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory, which built the satellite.
The satellite weighs around 113 kilograms and is about the size of a coffee table, according to the laboratory. The researchers said that they built it for less than $100 million, a low price by space-satellite standards.

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