U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) controllers are preparing a pair of rocket-plume characterization tests later this year now that an Orbital Sciences Minotaur I solid-fuel rocket has orbited the Near Field Infrared Experiment (NFIRE). The second Minotaur I launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at Wallops Island, Va., early April 24 placed the 494-kilogram (1090-pound) spacecraft in its target orbit of 250 by 450 kilometers inclined 48.2 degrees to the equator. ...

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