The final stage of a Minotaur-IV rocket arrived on Kodiak Island last week and Dale Nash, CEO of the Alaska Aerospace Corporation, confirmed an early May launch window for the next satellite to blast off from the Kodiak Launch Complex.

KMXT reported the launch date as May 5 according to the U.S. Air Force.

Unlike the previous Minotaur-IV launch in November 2010 that carried seven payloads and 16 experiments, this launch will only carry one 1,000-pound military reconnaissance and communication satellite, TacSat-4, that is a joint effort of several defense agencies.

For instance, the project is managed by the Naval Research Laboratory with ground operations performed at the laboratory’s Blossom Point Ground Station in Maryland. The Minotaur-IV rocket is provided by a partnership of the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center and the Operationally Responsive Space office within the Department of Defense.

One of the purposes of the TacSat-4 is to bolster current military satellite communication capabilities. One mission objective is to augment areas with little or no space support. The satellite will be launched in a unique, elliptical orbit that will allow it to cover high latitudes and also provide near global coverage, though not continuously. The orbit also allows the satellite to be positioned to different theaters worldwide within 24 hours under normal operations.

The satellite would make six orbits of earth every day.

The satellite also employs components for testing in the Operationally Responsive Space program.

The idea behind Operationally Responsive Space is to have smaller, lower-cost but mission specialized satellites launched by smaller boosters, within a time frame of months, to support communications or intelligence in a theater of war.

The TacSat-4 has a 12-foot antenna that can accommodate 10 ultra high frequency channels. One of the functions listed for these channels is Blue Force Tracking, that is, GPS tracking of the position of friendly units on a battlefield. Advantages of the satellite are that communications can be on-the-move and users will not need an antenna pointed toward the satellite to have communications work.

Mirror writer Wes Hanna can be reached via e-mail at

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