SPACEHAB's Astrotech Space Operations developed the Oriole sounding rocket in the late 1990s to provide launch services for commercial and scientific payloads. Oriole was both the first privately developed sounding rocket in the United States and the first new U.S. sounding rocket in 25 years.
The Oriole is a single-stage vehicle with a graphite-epoxy motor manufactured by Alliant Missile Products Company of Rocket Center, West Virginia. It is 396 centimeters (156 inches) long, 56 centimeters (22 inches) in diameter, and generates an average thrust of 92,100 newtons (20,700 pounds-force). The vehicle provides payloads with 6 to 9 minutes of microgravity during flight. Additionally, it can be combined with other motors to create two-stage sounding rockets (with the Oriole serving as the second stage).
On July 7, 2000, the first Oriole launch took place from NASA WFF. The launch used a two-stage configuration, with the Oriole serving as the second stage and a Terrier Mk 12 motor serving as the first stage. The Oriole sounding rocket reached a peak altitude of 385.6 kilometers (229 miles) 315 seconds after launch during the 10-minute test flight.
In July 2001, SPACEHAB's Astrotech Space Operations sold the Oriole program to DTI Associates of Arlington, Virginia, which integrates the vehicle and offers it commercially.
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