It’s a Family Affair

Air Force officials believe three Minotaur rockets planned for use in upcoming space launches may share some “common hardware” with the Taurus XL rocket that malfunctioned during a NASA mission earlier this month. The Taurus was carrying an Earth-observation satellite known as Glory. Although the investigation has just begun, Air Force Space Command boss Gen. William Shelton said Tuesday it appears the Taurus’ payload faring failed to break off after the rocket left the atmosphere. “We believe the parts that did not function properly are common to the boosters we have coming up—two in May and one in August,” Shelton told the House Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces panel. He said officials with the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB, Calif., are conducting an analysis of the three upcoming launches: the Operationally Responsive Space-1 satellite, TacSat-4 spacecraft, and Hypersonic Test Vehicle-2. It’s too early to say if the Air Force will delay those launches or what officials would need to do to address the issue, said Shelton. Orbital Sciences builds these rockets. (See also Shelton’s prepared remarks)