An Orbital Sciences Corp. Minotaur 1 launch vehicle orbited the Pentagon’s first Operationally Responsive Space (ORS-1) satellite late Wednesday in a launch from Wallops Island, Va., that was visible up and down the East Coast.

Liftoff of the solid-fuel rocket crafted from surplus Minuteman ICBM motors came at 11:09 p.m. EDT, and the spacecraft separated 12 min. later. After a 30-day checkout period in its 400-km (250-mi.), 40-deg. orbit, it will be turned over to the U.S. Air Force 1st Space Operations Squadron.

The Air Force will control the satellite in support of U.S. Central Command, which requested the capability to supplement tactical overhead imagery collected by aircraft over Afghanistan and elsewhere in Central Asia (Aerospace DAILY, June 27).

Developed under a Pentagon initiative to demonstrate that application-specific spacecraft can be designed and built quickly, ORS-1 carries a version of the Senior Year Electro-Optical Reconnaissance System (Syers) 2A that flies on the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. As a result, the ground equipment already in use by Centcom troops for airborne imagery also will be able to handle the satellite data.

Goodrich built the Syers 2A sensor, and integrated it onto an ATK satellite bus originally developed for the TacSat-3 demonstration program. The contract was signed 17 days after the secretary of the Air Force issued authority to proceed, according to USAF Col. Carole Welsch, the ORS-1 mission director, and ATK completed the bus 16 months later. Overall, it took 30 months to develop, build and launch the system, according to Welsch.

The ascent from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport was clearly visible in Washington, D.C., and witnesses reported seeing the launch from as far south as the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was the fourth Minotaur I launch from Pad 0B at Wallops, where work is nearing completion on the pad that will launch Orbital Sciences’ kerosene-fueled Taurus II vehicle on commercial cargo missions to the International Space Station.