Residents of Florida had rather unusual early hours on Saturday when their neighborhood was rocked by the lift-off ignition of a space rocket. It was not any other rocket launch. What made it special was the fact that it was lifted off from a long-dormant launch pad on Florida’s Space Coast.
This is the first time since 1999 that the facility of Launch Complex 46 has been used for space launch. Orbital ATK launched a Minotaur IV rocket which was carrying a special for the U.S. Air Force. The vehicle took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at a local time of 2:04 a.m. on Saturday, August 26, 2017. The location of the launch pad is a good 10miles closer to the public beaches. The other launch sites are further away from the human eye and hence often remain away from beachgoers and revelers. Launch site 46 is however comparatively close to the beaches so when the Orbital took off at 2:04 am; the sky was lit up and served a great sight for the people. The rocket standing on the pillar of light burst through the clouds breaking the silence.
SpaceX and United Launch Alliance regularly uses the Florida coast to send craft up in space but this launch marks the return of Orbital to the Cape Canaveral. In December last year, the company successfully launched one of its Pegasus rocket. The vehicle used was a modified Lockheed Martin L-1011 TriStar jet which took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The aircraft used the iconic 10,000-foot-long runway at Cape Canaveral called the Skid Strip. This is however that Orbital is using the site to launch Minotaur IV rocket from Florida.
Senior official Dale Ketcham has hailed the launch calling it a “critical piece”. According to Ketcham, it is all part of an effort to have Florida as the undisputed leader in space launch regions. Dale believes that is a goal that can very well be achieved in the coming years. He owes his confidence in the region thanks to the previous successful track record.
The success of the whole project is a joint effort by the Federal, state and local government. The three bodies came together to raise the $6.6 million needed for renovating the launch pad. One of the primary upgrades was to push the center to modern communication infrastructure. The additional charges to accommodate an Orbital ATK vehicle were paid by the company. The Orbital ATK was carrying a payload that costs a whopping $87.5 million. It is a U.S. Air Force satellite system known as Operationally Responsive Space or ORS-5. The delivery point of this payload is some 372miles above Earth. The satellite is useful to US military for keeping an eye on other satellites and space debris.