A more-powerful Taurus rocket — a model making its flight debut — is set to launch a satellite for Taiwan’s space agency on 20th of May from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The rocket, built by Orbital Sciences Corp., is scheduled to blast off from an austere launch pad during a 24-minute window opening at 10:47 a.m.
Taurus will carry a Republic of China remote sensing spacecraft dubbed ROCSAT-2 that will observe land and seas on Taiwan and its remote islands. The small spacecraft also carries a “Sprites Imager” scientific instrument that will take photos of lightning discharges to study the connection between thunderclouds and the upper atmosphere.
Liftoff will signal the end of a launch campaign that has encountered multiple problems since the original departure date last fall. Challenges that the team wrangled with included a five-week delay to replace a defective igniter inside one of the rocket’s motors, Orbital officials told investors recently. More recently, high winds delayed the team from finishing work to ready the rocket and satellite for flight and forced crews delay the launch three days.
The four-stage Taurus XL rocket is to blast off from a barebones facility in a small valley nestled near the ocean. Since 1994, the firm has launched six Taurus rockets, but the more powerful XL version can carry slightly heavier cargos to orbit.
The most recent Taurus, which blasted off Sept. 21, 2001, ended in failure due to a jammed steering device that caused the vehicle to veer out of control. The rocket flew properly for more than a minute, until a problem appeared as the second-stage motor ignited.
Orbital was awarded the ROCSAT contract in mid-2001 as the small-satellite markets hit a slump.