ORS Liftoff

By Courtney Albon / November 20, 2013 at 1:31 AM

WALLOPS ISLAND, VA -- The third Operationally Responsive Space mission lifted off from Wallops Island, VA, at 8:15 p.m. Eastern time, 45 minutes into its launch window. The science and technology demonstration mission was carried on a Minotaur 1 rocket built by Orbital Sciences Corp.

Tonight's ORS-3 launch from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility included 29 total satellites -- the most ever launched in a single mission -- sponsored by the Air Force, NASA, Johns Hopkins University and the National Reconnaissance Office. Of those payloads, 28 are small cube satellites and one is a larger satellite, the Space and Missile Systems Center's third Space Test Program satellite, STP-3.

Sixteen of the experimental payloads are sponsored by the Air Force's Space Test Program and were aimed at demonstrating a variety of capabilities, including several key launch and range support technologies. ORS-3 also features two Air Force weather-sensing payloads, which will both collect information about ionospheric conditions and help create a pathway for small satellites to be used to augment future operational space missions.

Sabrina Herrin, program engineer for system integrator Aerospace Corp., told reporters prior to launch that the service should make contact with STP-3 by about 9 p.m. tonight. The smaller cube satellites -- because they're connecting with multiple organizations -- should have contact with their ground stations within 24 hours of launch, Herrin said.