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1 ASTS supports Minotaur I Rocket launch

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif -- With NASA's next Minotaur I Rocket launch on Nov. 19 at Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va., Vandenberg's very own 1st Air and Space Test Squadron work to make the launch a success.

The Operationally Responsive Space Enabler mission of the Minotaur I Rocket includes carrying an integrated payload stack composed of the Space Test Program Satellite - 3 and 28 CubeSat satellites. Combined, these 29 satellites set the record for a single launch.

"The primary mission of this launch is to demonstrate the feasibility of quick-turnaround, low-cost launches." said 1st Lt. Kyle Mathison, 1 ASTS ORS-3 launch mission manager. "STPSat-3, the main payload, is actually considered to be the secondary mission with the compliment of CubeSats being the tertiary mission."

The Space and Missile System Center mission uses common space-vehicle architectures, GPS-based automated flight termination systems, and commercial flight licenses to lower costs and shorten schedules to deliver space-based capabilities to the warfighter in a strategically-useful time frame.

The 1 ASTS inspects, processes and handles the Minotaur I Lower Stack, which is essentially the bottom half of the rocket. The Lower Stack is composed of a Minuteman II first and second stage combined. Additionally, the squadron oversaw testing, integration and transportation of the Upper Stack motors; supported emplacement and integration of the entire rocket; and conducted day of launch readiness training for the combined government-contractor crew.

"While working hand-in-hand with government contractors, the spacelift maintenance technicians are responsible for the length of the booster from the Hill Air Force Base Missile Transporter Truck into the Modified Transporter Erector," said Master Sgt. Timothy Favreau, 1 ASTS maintenance flight chief. "The MTE is then driven to the launch pad where it is tied down to the ground and then stabilized and leveled in preparation for emplacement of the booster."

The MTE is used to position the lower and upper stack on the launch stand at a 90 degree angle. During the transportation of the booster, the safety procedures and maintenance procedures are strictly adhered to.

"Currently, we're the only blue-suiters in the Air Force qualified to go do this," said Favreau. "That's what makes us unique in the 1 ASTS. We have the unique truck to do it and we have the uniquely trained personnel to support it."