WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. – An Air Force Minotaur I rocket lifted off at 8:15 pm tonight from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.
The launch was the second of a Minotaur from Wallops in the last three months, and it will set a record of 29 satellites launched from a single rocket.
Moment of ignition and lift off pic.twitter.com/9WM09WpsRl
— Orbital ATK (@OrbitalATK) November 20, 2013
The entire process, from ignition to delivery of the satellites in orbit, took a little less than 12 1/2 minutes.
The 29 satellites, the most ever launched at one time, were aboard a single Minotaur I rocket that lifted off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia at 8:15 p.m. They included the main payload, the Air Force’s Space Test Program Satellite-3, and 28 tiny satellites called CubeSats.
The CubeSats are aptly named. Also called nanosatellites, they are small cubes, about 4 inches on each side, weighing about 3 pounds and with a volume of about a quart.
Among the CubeSats is the TJ3Sat, built by the students of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia. It will be the first satellite made by high-schoolers to go into space.
Once in orbit, the “TJ3Sat will allow students and amateur radio users the opportunity to send and receive data from the satellite. Students and other users from around the world will be able to submit text strings to be uploaded to the TJ3Sat website,” according to Orbital Sciences Corp, the developer and manufacturer of the Minotaur rocket.
The students have been working on the TJ3Sat for seven years, according to Orbital.
The Air Force satellite that is the main payload will conduct a variety of experiments during its expected 13-month mission.
The launch will also be evaluated as part of a certification process of the Minotaur rocket for commercial use. That process is being conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration, NASA says.
Orbital says the 29 satellites were expected to achieve orbit in a little less than 12½ minutes after the rocket ignites.
NASA says the launch may be visible from northern Florida to southern Canada and as far west as Indiana.