Minotaur-C scheduled for Vandenberg launch on October 31
Six SkySat imaging satellites are now set to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California this coming Tuesday, Oct. 31, at 2:37 p.m. PDT (21:37 GMT). The launch will utilize an Orbital ATK Minotaur-C rocket.
When it takes to the skies, it will mark the second flight of a Minotaur rocket this year following the launch of the ORS-5 mission aboard a Minotaur IV rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 46 on Aug. 26, 2017. The six SkySat imaging satellites are being launched on behalf of Planet Labs, Inc., a private Earth-imaging company based out of San Francisco, California.
“Our unique geographic location makes Vandenberg an ideal place to launch commercial imaging satellites,” said Col. Greg Wood, vice commander of the 30th Space Wing and space launch commander for the mission via a release. “We are excited to partner with Orbital ATK to make this mission a reality.”
The Minotaur-C (formerly known as the Taurus) is a four-stage solid-fueled launch vehicle based on the air-launched Pegasus system. With a mass of approximately 170,000 pounds (77,000 kilograms) and standing at a height of 97 to 104 feet (30 to 32 meters), it is capable of launching a payload of up to 3,500 pounds (1,590 kilograms) – sufficient capacity to deliver six of the 182 pounds (83 kilograms) SkySats into orbit.
The new satellites will add to Planet Labs’ growing constellation of Earth imaging satellites, which currently consists of seven SkySats. The expansion of the SkySat network to 13 will cement Planet Labs’ constellation as the world’s largest commercial fleet of high-resolution sub-meter satellites operating in orbit around Earth. They join 271 Dove CubeSats built and operated by Planet Labs that collect more imagery per day than any other commercial provider.
Paul is currently a graduate student in Space and Planetary Sciences at the University of Akransas in Fayetteville. He grew up in the Kansas City area and developed an interest in space at a young age at the start of the twin Mars Exploration Rover missions in 2003. He began his studies in aerospace engineering before switching over to geology at Wichita State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in 2013. After working as an environmental geologist for a civil engineering firm, he began his graduate studies in 2016 and is actively working towards a PhD that will focus on the surficial processes of Mars. He also participated in a 2-week simluation at The Mars Society's Mars Desert Research Station in 2014 and remains involved in analogue mission studies today. Paul has been interested in science outreach and communication over the years which in the past included maintaining a personal blog on space exploration from high school through his undergraduate career and in recent years he has given talks at schools and other organizations over the topics of geology and space. He is excited to bring his experience as a geologist and scientist to the Spaceflight Insider team writing primarily on space science topics.