Space Command turns rocket into shotgun

Published: November 20, 2013, 10:21 am, by Tom Roeder

Wallops Rocket LaunchAir Force Space Command showed off its program for smaller, simpler satellites Tuesday, with 29 spacecraft making orbit in a single launch.

In shotgun terms, that’s the same number of projectiles as three buckshot shells.

The small satellites went to orbit aboard a Minotaur I rocket¬† — a heavily modified Minuteman missile.

The biggest satellite aboard was Space Command’s STPSat-3, which carries a package of scientific instruments to study space weather and examine the sun.

Other satellites aboard were dubbed “cube sats” — essentially electronics-laden baseballs.

space commandThe Air Force says all 29 satellites were placed in proper orbit after the launch from Wallops Island, Va.

¬†It’s all part of the Air Force’s “Operationally Responsive Space” program, which aims to field and launch satellites quickly with a special emphasis on small satellites, which can be used as stopgaps if bigger, more complex satellites are disabled in wartime.

The program is overseen by Space Command, which is headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base.

The experimental satellites are being flown through a ground station at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.