The first Operationally Responsive Space (ORS-1) mission is in final preparation for a June 28 launch from Wallops Island, Va., only 30 months after the contract was signed.

Intended to give U.S. Central Command forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere in Central Asia another means for targeting overhead reconnaissance, the spacecraft is scheduled to be launched by an Orbital Sciences Corp. Minotaur 1 in a 3-hr. window that opens at 8:28 p.m. EDT. The launch from the barrier island east of Chesapeake Bay may be visible along the U.S. East Coast from New York to North Carolina, and as far west as West Virginia.

Developed under a Pentagon initiative to build spacecraft designed for specific purposes quickly, the Minotaur 1 will carry a version of the Senior Year Electro-Optical Reconnaissance System (Syers) 2A that flies on the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. Goodrich builds the Syers 2A sensor and integrated it onto an ATK satellite bus at its Danbury, Conn., facility. The contract was signed 17 days after the Air Force secretary issued authority to proceed, Wegner says. Critical design review came eight months later.

“[Syers 2A] looks very much like an airborne sensor to the operators in Central Command,” said Peter Wegner, director of the Defense Department Operational Responsive Space Office, in a pre-launch teleconference June 24. “The very same computer software system that is used to task airborne ISR assets, airborne imagery systems, they will use those exact same assets to task this spacecraft.”

ORS-1 is bound for a 400-km (250-mi.) orbit at a 40-deg. inclination, and will be available to the U.S. Air Force 1st Space Operations Sqdn. after a 30-day checkout period, according to mission director Col. Carole Welsch

The ORS-1 launch will be the 10th for a Minotaur 1 and fourth on that vehicle from Wallops Island. Because of similarities with the fairing mechanism on Orbital’s Taurus I vehicle, which has twice failed to orbit NASA satellites from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., due to fairing-separation failure, the ORS-1 launch vehicle has received extra scrutiny.

The review found “no evidence” that previous Minotaur flights experienced the same issues that were blamed in the Taurus I failures, according to Lou Amorosi, vice president for orbital/suborbital programs at Orbital Sciences. “However, to be absolutely safe, we recommended, and the Air Force and the ORS office accepted, a couple of minor modifications” to the launch vehicle, one mechanical and one in the software, Amorosi says.