NASA prepares for first Minotaur V launch

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NASA is preparing to launch the first Orbital Sciences Minotaur V from Wallops Island, Virginia. Though it marks the Minotaur V's first flight, previous versions have flown a total of 13 times into orbit.

The 6 September launch will loft the Lunar Atmosphere Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) into orbit around the moon.

The Minotaur series was specifically designed to use excess solid-fuel engines from retired Minuteman and Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). The Minotaur IV+ and Minotaur V are also topped by additional commercial motors to carry heavier payloads.

Russia and Ukraine have made large industries out of refurbished ICBMs - including Shtil', which launches only from a submarine - but the US largely declined to make such a transition. Because it uses ICBM components the Minotaur series is available only to US government clients and is priced comparably with commercial launch vehicles, the system has only found partial success.

 at wallops island. c:nasa

 NASA

The Minotaur has a 100% launch success rate.

Orbital Sciences is preparing to launch the Antares launch vehicle on its second flight, sending the Cygnus capsule to dock with the International Space Station for the first time. Cygnus is being developed, along with SpaceX's Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 launch vehicle, under NASA's commercial cargo programme.