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Beating Swords Into Plowshares
Converting Military Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles to Peaceful Space Launchers

Recycled Minuteman Roars into Space

Minotaur on launch pad
Minotaur on launch pad
Minotaur, a.k.a. OSPSLV, a rocket using recycled parts from retired nuclear missiles blasted off January 26, 2000, from the Commercial Launch Facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

OSPSLV stands for Orbital Suborbital Program Space Launch Vehicle.

The six-story launch vehicle combined the first and second stages of decommissioned Minuteman 2 missiles with third and fourth stages from Orbital Sciences' commercial air-launched Pegasus rocket. The launch proved that the combo is capable of ferrying satellites to space.

Recycling Parts Saves Money

Using recycled parts from Minuteman missiles saves a third of the usual cost for launching payloads, according to its builders.

The Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) treaty between the United States and the former Soviet Union resulted in the decommissioning of hundreds of Minuteman 2 missiles. Some 350 Minuteman 2 missiles are in storage, which means plenty of parts are available.

Artist concept of ASUSAT in orbit over Earth
Artist concept ASUSAT
JAWSAT Carried Four Satellites

The Minotaur rocket carried the Air Force JAWSAT, which carried four microsatellites to space in the single flight, to an altitude of 466 miles above Earth. JAWSAT stands for Joint Air Force Academy-Weber State University Satellite. The multiple payload adaptor was built by students working with aerospace professionals.

Six digital cameras built into JAWSAT recorded each of the four payloads as it was dropped off in orbit. Two other experiments remained attached to the JAWSAT multiple payload adaptor frame.

The Microsatellite Payloads

The four separate microsatellites that JAWSAT dropped off in orbit were ASUSAT, OPAL, OCSE and FalconSat. The two experiments that remained attached to the JAWSAT frame were NASA's Plasma Experiment Satellite and Weber's Attitude Controlled Platform.

The first to separate from JAWSAT was Arizona State University's ASUSAT, followed by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory's Optical Calibration Sphere Experiment (OCSE), Stanford University's OPAL satellite and finally the U.S. Air Force Academy's FalconSat. Later, JAWSAT jettisoned itself from the rocket's fourth stage.
    ASUSAT was designed, built and tested and is operated by students at Arizona State University. It is the first of its tiny size and is referred to as a nanosatellite. It was launched as a technology demonstrator for low cost spacecraft. The spacecraft takes pictures of Earth and serves as a relay station for amateur radio operators (ham radio hamsat).

    OPAL, the Orbiting Picosat Automatic Launcher (OPAL-1 also known as Squirt 2) was designed and built at Stanford University. Including itself, it carried six tiny picosatellites to be deployed in space including a picosat sent by Santa Clara University's Artemis team and two tether research craft for the U.S. miltiary. The sixth in the cluster was StenSat, an amateur radio satellite (hamsat). OPAL's mission was to demonstrate a capability for launching multiple picosatellites from a mothership. OPAL-1 weighed about 30 lbs.

      DARPA Picosat 1A DARPA Picosat 1A, released by OPAL-1, was designed and built to carry out technology research for the Defense Advanced Research Program Agency (DARPA) by the The Aerospace Corp. It weighed about 1.5 lbs.

      DARPA Picosat 1B DARPA Picosat 1B, released by OPAL-1, was designed and built to carry out technology research for the Defense Advanced Research Program Agency (DARPA) by the The Aerospace Corp. It weighed about 1.5 lbs.

      Artemis Picosat Artemis Picosat, released by OPAL-1, was designed and built at Santa Clara University to carry out technology research. It weighed slightly more than 1 lb.

      MASat 1 MASat 1 also known as Hockeypuck, released by OPAL-1, was designed and built for amateur radio use by the Stanford Mentors Team. It slightly more than 1 lb.

      StenSat StenSat, released by OPAL-1, was designed and built for amateur radio use and weighed about half a pound.

    OCSE, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory's Optical Calibration Sphere Experiment, is a 3.5 meter diameter kapton/aluminum balloon that is designed to orbit the Earth for two years. The craft is used to test ground tracking systems.

    FalconSat was developed by U.S. Air Force Academy cadets to study how charged particles can build up and then wreck satellites' onboard computer systems. The s0-called Charging Hazards and Wake Studies experiment on FalconSat is a longer duration experiment than ones performed earlier.
The Attached Payloads

JAWSAT is circling Earth with two permanently attached experiments:
    PEST, the Plasma Experiment Satellite Test, also known as PSE, sponsored by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.

    ACP, Weber State University's Attitude Controlled Platform.
An Expansive Project

JAWSAT was built by students working alongside aerospace professionals. Initially planned to be only a pulsed-plasma thruster to train U.S. Air Force Academy cadets, the project grew to include several universities, aerospace companies, the Air Force Research Laboratory and NASA.

OSPSLV is a relatively small rocket that can can lift 750 lbs. to a 400-nautical-mile sun-synchronous orbit. That is 1.5 times the capability of the commercial Pegasus XL rocket.

The multiple payload adapter was built by One Stop Satellite Solutions (OSSS) of Ogden Utah. It allows Minotaur to carry one large payload and up to four smaller payloads.

If you're counting, the Minotaur launch actually sent twelve satellite payloads to orbit -- JAWSAT, ASUSAT, OCSE, OPAL, Artemis Picosat, MASat, DARPA Picosat 1A tethered satellite, DARPA Picosat 1B tethered satellite, StenSat, FalconSat, PEST, and ACP.

The Minotaur OSPSLV

While Pegasus is launched from an airplane at high altitude, the OSPSLV is launched from the ground similar to the existing Taurus space rocket.

Minotaur can blast off from a government pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, as well as commercial spaceports at Wallops Island, Virginia, Cape Canaveral, Florida, Vandenberg AFB, California, and Kodiak Island, Alaska.

To ensure no adverse impacts to the U.S. commercial space launch capability, all payload customers must be U.S. government agencies or be sponsored by such agencies. The Secretary of Defense holds approval power for each Minotaur OSPSLV launch.

A second Minotaur is scheduled to launch the Air Force Research Laboratory's MightySat 2.1 payload in March 2000.

Amateur Radio Aboard the Satellites

American Radio Relay League (ARRL) emblem
In a message to its members, the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), national fraternity of amateur radio operators, identified three of the Minotaur payloads as hamsats -- StenSat, ASUSat and JAWSAT itself.
    JAWSAT JAWSAT served as what is known in the satellite business as a "bus" for the several deployable payloads and the Plasma Experiment Satellite Test (PEST).

    The telemetry stream from JAWSAT, including data from PEST, was transmitted on amateur radio frequencies. Amateur radio operators (hams) contributed to the experimental program by recording the downlinked data transmitted at rates as high as 38.4 kb/s on 437.175 MHz or 2403.2 MHz.

    ASUSat Arizona State University's ASUSat contained amateur packet hardware and a 2-meter/70-cm FM voice repeater. ASUSat was a NASA Space Grant project and Arizona State University's first student-designed satellite.

    StenSat The tiny StenSat, which was a satellite within another satellite, the Orbiting Picosat Automatic Launcher (OPAL), was strictly a ham satellite. It was designed by hams for use by hams. It was developed by a group of amateur enthusiasts in the Washington, D.C., area as part of Stanford University's OPAL project.

    StenSat operated as a single-channel Mode J FM voice repeater. The uplink frequency was 145.84 MHz. The downlink frequency was 436.625 MHz. StenSat transmited 1200 baud AX.25 telemetry. Additionally, amateur radio operators were to be able to ''ping'' the satellite by transmitting a six-digit DTMF (TouchTone) command to the receiver uplink.
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