Extreme Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Makeover!

By Joseph Calamia | June 30, 2010 12:05 pm

minotaurIV“Peacekeeper” missiles are getting a new lease on life: as satellite launchers. Next week, the Air Force plans to launch the second of these decommissioned intercontinental ballistic missiles, renamed “Minotaur IV,” to deploy a trash-tracking satellite.

It’s nice to know that one relic will help us spot others–pieces of junk, like abandoned rocket stages left over from other space missions. As the IV in the new rocket’s name implies, the Peacekeeper isn’t the first retired missile to enter the Air Force’s very special recycling program. The first Minotaurs (pdf) incorporated stages from Minutemen missiles.

Barron Beneski is a representative of Orbital Sciences Corp., which holds the Air Force contract to transform the missiles into launch vehicles. Beneski told Discovery News:

“What is neat is that what was once a military weapons system is now a peaceful use of government assets. It’s the whole idea of turning ‘swords into plowshares.'”

Other countries, notably Russia and China, have similar missile makeover programs. Unlike these countries, the United States does not offer the boosters for sale on the open market–only for government use.

“OSC (Orbital Sciences) can’t sell a Minotaur to Brazil,” Wayne Eleazer, a retired Air Force officer, told Discovery News. “That’s still not allowed.”

Related content:
Discoblog: Dang, What Was That? Astronomers Wonder What Just Whizzed by Earth
Discoblog: Killer Military Robots Gaining Independence
80beats: Laser-Bearing Jumbo Jet Shoots Down Its First Missile
80beats: Russia’s Flawed Intercontinental Missile Test Lights Up Norway’s Sky


  • http://www.nicky510.com Crow

    Amusing. Putting additional “stuff” up there to track the rest of the “stuff.” I hope it’s cataloging itself as well, or we’ll need another to track it and another to …

  • Brandon

    Just a small (but important) correction- The Satellite riding the launch vehicle is named SBSS, and it is not a NASA spacecraft, it is entirely an Air Force mission.

  • Joseph Calamia

    Brandon, You are right. Sorry about that–and thanks for catching it. I changed the post.

    From the Discovery News article (linked above), NASA also plans to use a modified version of the Peacemaker in 2012.

    From the SBSS website, (http://www.boeing.com/defense-space/space/satellite/sbss.html), the satellite should be useful for several purposes:

    “DOD will use data generated by the SBSS system to support military operations. Additionally, NASA could use the information to calculate orbital debris collision-avoidance measures for the International Space Station and Space Shuttle missions.”

    Thanks again.


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