"Peacekeeper" missiles are getting a new lease on life: as satellite launchers. Next week, the Air Force plans to launch the second of these decommissioned intercontinental ballistic missiles, renamed "Minotaur IV," to deploy a trash-tracking satellite. It's nice to know that one relic will help us spot others--pieces of junk, like abandoned rocket stages left over from other space missions. As the IV in the new rocket's name implies, the Peacekeeper isn't the first retired missile to enter the Air Force's very special recycling program. The first Minotaurs (pdf) incorporated stages from Minutemen missiles. Barron Beneski is a representative of Orbital Sciences Corp., which holds the Air Force contract to transform the missiles into launch vehicles. Beneski toldDiscovery News:
"What is neat is that what was once a military weapons system is now a peaceful use of government assets. It's the whole idea of turning 'swords into plowshares.'"
Other countries, notably Russia and China, have similar missile makeover programs. Unlike these countries, the United States does not offer the boosters for sale on the open market--only for government use.
"OSC (Orbital Sciences) can't sell a Minotaur to Brazil," Wayne Eleazer, a retired Air Force officer, toldDiscovery News. "That's still not allowed."
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