1. Headline
  1. Headline
Image: Rocket streak
Gary C. Knapp  /  AP
Carrying two experimental satellites, the Minotaur I rocket streaks across the sky after Saturday's liftoff from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Atlantic, Va.
updated 12/17/2006 8:36:33 PM ET 2006-12-18T01:36:33

Spectators cheered as a rocket carrying two experimental satellites blasted off Saturday in the first launch from the mid-Atlantic region's commercial spaceport, creating a blazing streak across the sky just before sunrise.

The 69-foot (20.7-meter) Minotaur I rocket soared from the launch pad at 7 a.m. ET, after teams spent the week resolving a software problem in one of the satellites. The problem caused officials to scrub a liftoff that had been planned for the previous Monday.

"We can now confirm that both satellites are alive and kicking" in orbit, said U.S. Air Force Col. Samuel McCraw, the mission director. "It's still too early to know how they're doing, but both have woken up and started talking."

The rocket soared over the Atlantic Ocean against a pink-and-orange-streaked morning sky, drawing cheers from about 80 invited guests watching from a viewing site about a mile and a half (2.5 kilometers) from the commercial launch pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility.

The crowd cheered again seconds later when the first stage separated from the rest of the rocket.

‘Little piece of history’
Alan Williams said the Minotaur's liftoff was quicker than the space shuttle launches he has watched.

"This is a little piece of history. It's the first time in 20 years they've done what appears to be a successful ground-based satellite launch from Wallops," said Williams, a self-described "rocket geek" from Washington who writes about rockets and makes models of them.

The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, a state agency, built the commercial launch pad in 1998 on land leased from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility to try to help bring jobs to the economically depressed Eastern Shore region. Maryland later joined the venture.

"It's been a lot of work, it's been a long road, but today we showed we can do it," Billie Reed, director of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, said after the launch. "We're in business for real."

TacSat-2 and GeneSat-1
The rocket carried the Air Force's TacSat-2 satellite, which will test the military's ability to quickly transmit images of enemy targets to battlefield commanders.

Also on board was NASA's GeneSat-1 satellite, which carries a harmless strain of E. coli bacteria as part of an experiment to study the long-term effects of space on living organisms.

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. TODAY's Takeaway: Savannah overshares; Billy Crystal brings '700 Sundays' to TV

      Witnesses describe hearing the Mount Everest avalanche, Savannah already overshares and Billy Crystal brings "700 Sundays"...

    2. 'You helped me': After 23 years, Desert Storm veteran thanks pen pals
    3. Alan Thicke: 'I have a better body' than Homer Simpson'
    4. Kids scared of the Easter Bunny? Well, look at him!
    5. 'We are not equipped for this': Tamron, Willie face off against animals

The software glitch would have prevented solar panels on the TacSat-2 satellite from rotating to point directly at the sun. That would have meant the satellite's batteries couldn't have charged and the satellite wouldn't have had enough power to run experiments.

Air Force officials announced Friday that the software problem was fixed.

The software-caused launch delay added "a couple hundred thousand dollars" to the $60 million price of the mission, McCraw said Friday. The total includes the cost of the rocket and the two satellites plus $621,000 the Air Force will pay the spaceport.

The rocket was built by Orbital Sciences Corp., which used two stages made from decommissioned Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles and two stages from Pegasus rockets.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

TODAY's Takeaway
  1. TODAY

    Savannah overshares; Billy Crystal brings ‘700 Sundays’ to TV

    4/18/2014 8:29:08 PM +00:00 2014-04-18T20:29:08
  1. Doomed South Korean ferry’s captain taken into custody

    The captain of the sunken ferry in South Korea was taken into custody Friday and is facing five charges, including criminal negligence.

    4/18/2014 8:35:55 PM +00:00 2014-04-18T20:35:55
  2. Did South Korea ferry’s sharp turn cause it to sink?
  3. Teen ferry survivors comforted in devastated town
  1. Courtesy of Shawn Stock

    'You helped me': After 23 years, Desert Storm veteran thanks pen pals

    4/18/2014 8:51:52 PM +00:00 2014-04-18T20:51:52
  1. Courtesy of Kristen Hazelwood Jo

    Kids scared of the Easter Bunny? Well, look at him!

    4/18/2014 7:18:23 PM +00:00 2014-04-18T19:18:23
  1. This weekend on TODAY: Apps to keep teens from texting and driving

    Janice Lieberman takes a look at three new apps that are designed to keep your teens safe behind the wheel. Also, Ed Weeks from “The Mindy Project," the right way to cook a perfect Easter ham and more.

    4/18/2014 4:41:45 PM +00:00 2014-04-18T16:41:45