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Air Force space officials prepare to launch first Minotaur IV

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The first launch of the Minotaur IV Space Launch Vehicle is scheduled to occur April 20 at noon PDT from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

The Minotaur IV is the newest variant in the Minotaur family of rockets built by Orbital Sciences Corporation. It is a four-stage solid rocket vehicle consisting of three decommissioned Peacekeeper missile stages and a fourth commercially built stage developed by OSC. For this maiden lift-off, the rocket will be in a "lite" configuration consisting of only the first three stages and no fourth stage due to mission requirements.

The payload for this first launch is the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle, or HTV, built by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency scientists. The Falcon HTV-2 program is an innovative research and development joint venture of DARPA and the Air Force to develop and demonstrate hypersonic technologies that will help achieve a prompt global-reach capability.

The Minotaur family of launch vehicles are provided via the Orbital/Suborbital Program 2 and managed by the Space Development and Test Wing's Launch Test Squadron located at Kirtland AFB, N.M.

Scientists at the Space Development and Test Wing develop and provide operationally responsive space capabilities that expand warfighter access to national space assets that enhance mission command and control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

The Air Force Space Command's Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles AFB is the Air Force's center of acquisition excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems and includes six wings and three groups responsible for GPS, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control network, space based infrared systems, intercontinental ballistic missile systems and space situational awareness capabilities.