Minotaur IV rocket launched overnight in Cape Canaveral

By Jerry Hume, Reporter
Last Updated: Saturday, August 26, 2017, 8:00 AM EDT

Update: 7 a.m. - The Minotaur IV rocket launched just after 2 a.m. Saturday. It was the first Minotaur rocket launch from the Cape Canaveral AFS. 

  • Minotaur IV rocket launched just after 2 a.m.
  • Rocket will carry Air Force satellite into orbit
  • Minotaur rocket is smaller, made of old ICBM stages
  • DESTINATION SPACE: Complete coverage of space news

The Minotaur IV launched off Pad 46, which hasn't been used since the late 90's. 

The Minotaur IV, which soared into space with three solid rocket booster stages, stood at 78 feet tall, compared to the current Atlas V at 191 feet tall and the SpaceX Falcon 9 at 230 feet. 

Minotaur IV combines government motors and commercial boosters, making it a cost effective way to launch satellites into orbit. 

The Operational Response Satellite was launched to space to track other satellites at risk of collisions and space debris. 

Jeffrey Margaritondo captured a beautiful shot of the rocket launch overnight. 

Original Report: The Minotaur IV rocket is expected to make its Space Coast debut Friday night, but it's already facing a delay. Orbital ATK announced the opening of the launch window has been pushed back to 2:04 a.m.

The rocket is carrying a satellite for the U. S. Air Force.

Because the satellite needs to be placed 360 miles above the equator, the company behind the Minotaur rocket, Orbital ATK, decided to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

“This now gives us launch capability from all four corners of the United States, from Alaska, Southern California, off the coast of Virginia and now here,” said Orbital ATK’s Terry Feehan.

The Minotaur IV is made up of old peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missile stages to keep launch costs down.

The rocket will launch the Operational Responsive Space 5 satellite, also known as SensorSat. The satellite is designed to track other satellites and space debris in geosynchronous orbit, close to 22,000 miles above it.

“This satellite keeps an eye on them, because if they get out of position and start bumping into each other, that’s a bad thing,” Feehan said. “And we can also keep tabs on our friends and not-so-friendly nations that might be there as well.”

The rocket will launch from Space Launch Complex 46, which hasn’t been used for a launch since the 1990s.

“It has been in a mothball status waiting to be revived, but Space Florida made an investment in that, along with the state, to bring this opportunity to the local area,” Feehan said.

The Minotaur IV rocket is 78 feet tall — smaller compared with the Atlas V at 191 feet or the Falcon 9 at 230 feet.

The launch window now opens up at 2:04 a.m. and runs until 3:15 a.m. Saturday.

There’s a 60 percent chance of favorable weather conditions with lightning being the main concern.

Orbital ATK says if you’re heading to the coast to watch the launch, Port Canaveral and Jetty Park will be the best bet for a good view.