Launched under the U.S. Air Force Orbital/Suborbtial Program-2 (OSP-2) contract, Minotaur rockets are derived from U.S. Government-supplied Minuteman and Peacekeeper rocket motors. The space launch configurations combine commercial rocket motors, avionics and other elements with the government-supplied stages to create responsive, reliable and low-cost launch systems for U.S. government payloads.
The Minotaur I space launch vehicle configuration used in the successful XSS-11 launch includes Minuteman rocket motors that serve as the vehicle's first and second stages, efficiently reusing motors that have been previously decommissioned. Its third and fourth stages, structures and payload fairing are common with Orbital's highly reliable Pegasus XL rocket.
In addition to the Minotaur I space booster, Orbital's Minotaur product line also included
- Minotaur II - A Minuteman-based three-stage suborbital rocket, used as a target vehicle for testing U.S. missile defense systems and related missions.
- Minotaur III - A Peacekeeper-based three-stage suborbital rocket, also used as a target vehicle for testing U.S. missile defense systems and similar missions.
- Minotaur IV - A heavier-lift Peacekeeper-based four-stage space launch vehicle, used to place U.S. Government-sponsored satellites weighing up to 3,800 lbs. into low-altitude orbit. Orbital was recently awarded its first Minotaur IV contract by the U.S. Air Force to launch the Space-Based Surveillance System (SBSS) satellite.
- Minotaur V - An enhanced-performance version of the Minotaur IV space launch vehicle that may be used to launch government satellites into higher-energy orbits for missions related to space exploration and other activities beyond low-Earth orbit.
From 2000 through 2011, twenty three excess ICBM asset missions were conducted. This number is equal to the 23 combined launches of Pegasus, Taurus, Falcon 1, and Athena over the same timeframe. In AIA's view, using excess assets at a level equal to industry's sales adversely impacts the space transportation industrial base. Indeed, for smaller payloads, excess ICBM assets are nearing monopoly status. In 2010-2011 eight of nine small launches were excess ICBMs.
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