Encyclopedia Astronautica
Improved Orion


American sounding rocket. Unguided solid propellant single stage rocket using a military surplus M112 Hawk rocket motor. The motor was a dual thrust burner with a boost phase of 5 seconds and a sustainer phase of approximately 21 seconds. The rocket accelerated the payload then for 26 seconds with peak acceleration during the boost phase of 21g. A payload mass of 100 kg could be carried to an apogee of approximately 110 km.

Payload: 100 kg (220 lb) to a 110 km altitude. Failures: 2. Success Rate: 95.12%. First Fail Date: 1995-07-14. Last Fail Date: 2006-07-01.

Status: Active.
Gross mass: 400 kg (880 lb).
Payload: 100 kg (220 lb).
Height: 5.60 m (18.30 ft).
Diameter: 0.35 m (1.14 ft).
Thrust: 7.00 kN (1,574 lbf).
Apogee: 110 km (60 mi).
First Launch: 1990.03.06.
Last Launch: 2010.12.06.
Number: 49 .

More... - Chronology...


Associated Countries
See also
  • Hawk American surface-to-air missile and sounding rocket family. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
Associated Launch Sites
  • Wallops Island Small NASA launch site for sounding rocket launches and occasional Scout launches to orbit. Air launches are conducted from the Drop Zone Wallops Island, 37.00 N 72.0 W. With the last orbital launch in 1985 and the decline in sounding rocket launches, Wallops fell into near-disuse as a launch center. Its fortunes revised with the establishment of Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in 2005 and orbital launches resumed in 2010. More...
  • White Sands White Sands Missile Range occupies an area 160 x 65 km in the Tularosa Basin of southern New Mexico, across the Sacramento Mountain range from Roswell. In the 1930's, Robert Goddard, after surveying weather conditions and population densities, had selected Roswell for his pioneering rocket tests. White Sands, a true desert area, was even more unpopulated than Roswell. German advances in rocketry during World War II impelled the US Army to begin programs to exploit this technology. The White Sands Proving Ground was established for testing German and American long-range rockets on 9 July 1945. Seven days later the first atomic bomb was exploded at Trinity Site, near the north boundary of the range. The first launch of a Tiny Tim rocket was on 26 September 1945. On 11 October a Tiny Tim boosted a WAC Corporal rocket from the tower. This was the first use of Launch Complex 33, later to be used for V-2, Nike, Viking, Corporal, Lance and Multiple Launch Rocket System testing. More...
  • Poker Flat Sounding rocket launch site. In use from 1969 to present. Poker Flat Rocket Range (PFRR) contains five major launch pads. Pads 1 and 2 each have a 7.5K launcher, pads 3 and 4 each contain 20K MRL launchers, and pad 5 contains a 4K twin boom launcher. Pad 3 is equipped with a moveable launcher enclosure which can be used to protect a rocket on pad 3 and workers from the severe winter weather. More...
  • Andoya Andoya Rocket Range (ARR) is the world's northernmost permanent launch facility for sounding rockets and scientific balloons and is responsible for all scientific-related balloon and rocket operations in Norwegian territory. ARR provides complete services for launch, operations, data acquisition, recovery and ground instrumentation support. The range has conducted more than 650 rocket launches and hosted scientists and engineers from more than 70 institutes and universities. More...
  • Kiruna The sounding rocket launch site at Kiruna was officially opened in September 1966 under the auspices of ESRO (European Space Research Organisation). When ESA was created in 1972 and replaced ESRO, Kiruna came under the management of the Swedish Space Corporation, a state-owned limited liability company under the Swedish Ministry of Industry. The 'Esrange' is located 45 km from the town of Kiruna and has seven permanent pads able to launch the largest sounding rockets, including the Black Brant 9, Skylark 12, and Castor 4B-boosted vehicles. More...
  • Alcantara Sounding rocket and orbital launch site. Used for 53 known launches from 1990 to 2007. The launch complex for Brazil's indigenous VLS orbital booster was located here. More...
  • SvalRak Sounding rocket launch site, known to have been used for 41 launches from 1997 to 2004, reaching up to 1108 kilometers altitude. This launch site, on the arctic archipelago Svalbard, provides unique conditions for rocket studies of the dayside polar cusp, cleft and cap. The site is ideal for scientific exploration of the dayside aurora and processes in the magnetospheric boundary layer. More...

Associated Stages
  • Improved Orion-1 Solid propellant rocket stage. Loaded mass 400 kg. Thrust 13.00 kN. The Improved Orion motor was a bi-phase propellant system that results in thrust levels of approximately 84.5 kN during the first four seconds of motor burn then trailing off to approximately 13.3 kN until burnout around 25 seconds. The fins were generally configured to provide a burn out spin rate of four cycles per second. More...

Improved Orion Chronology


1990 March 6 - . 09:30 GMT - . Launch Site: Kiruna. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion DLR K-O-174.
  • RASMUS 3 Aeronomy mission - . Nation: Germany. Agency: DLR. Apogee: 79 km (49 mi).

1994 December 5 - . 00:48 GMT - . Launch Site: Kiruna. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion SSC HYGROSOND.
  • Hygrosonde Aeronomy mission - . Nation: Sweden. Agency: SSC. Apogee: 77 km (47 mi).

1995 July 14 - . 07:50 GMT - . Launch Site: Kiruna. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion DLR K-O/I-216. FAILURE: Failure.
  • Test Orion 1 test - . Nation: Germany. Agency: DLR. Apogee: 7.00 km (4.30 mi).

1995 October 8 - . 10:36 GMT - . Launch Site: Kiruna. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion DLR K-O/I-217.
  • Test Orion 2 test - . Nation: Germany. Agency: DLR. Apogee: 74 km (45 mi).

1995 December 4 - . 10:23 GMT - . Launch Site: Kiruna. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion SSC REXUS.
  • Test mission - . Nation: Sweden. Agency: SSC. Apogee: 89 km (55 mi).

1997 June 4 - . 09:00 GMT - . Launch Site: Kiruna. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion SSC GYROTEST.
  • Test mission - . Nation: Sweden. Agency: SSC. Apogee: 94 km (58 mi).

1999 July 6 - . 00:06 GMT - . Launch Site: Andoya. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion MD-MI-05.
  • MIDAS Aeronomy mission - . Nation: Norway. Agency: NDRE. Apogee: 85 km (52 mi).

2000 May 6 - . 17:08 GMT - . Launch Site: Andoya. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion MS-MI-03.
  • MIDAS Ferdinand-115 Aeronomy mission - . Nation: Norway. Agency: NDRE. Apogee: 85 km (52 mi).

2000 May 15 - . 00:46 GMT - . Launch Site: Andoya. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion MS-MI-05.
  • MIDAS Ferdinand-116 Aeronomy mission - . Nation: Norway. Agency: NDRE. Apogee: 85 km (52 mi).

2001 February 19 - . 06:02 GMT - . Launch Site: Kiruna. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion DLR K-O-?.
  • Maxus test - . Nation: Germany. Agency: DLR. Apogee: 81 km (50 mi).

2001 May 15 - . 01:57 GMT - . Launch Site: Andoya. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion HiN-2.
  • Hotel Dart test - . Nation: Norway. Agency: NDRE. Apogee: 115 km (71 mi).

2001 June 17 - . 00:05 GMT - . Launch Site: Andoya. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion SO-MI-05.
  • MIDAS Aeronomy / ionosphere mission - . Nation: Norway. Agency: NDRE. Apogee: 85 km (52 mi).

2001 June 24 - . 21:21 GMT - . Launch Site: Andoya. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion SO-MI-11.
  • MIDAS Aeronomy / ionosphere mission - . Nation: Norway. Agency: NDRE. Apogee: 85 km (52 mi).

2001 December 16 - . 05:12 GMT - . Launch Site: Kiruna. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion SSC Hygrosond-2.
  • Hygrosonde II Aeronomy mission - . Nation: Sweden. Agency: SSC. Apogee: 90 km (55 mi).

2002 March 7 - . 09:07 GMT - . Launch Site: Poker Flat. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion NASA 30.49UE.
  • Ionosphere mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: NASA. Apogee: 85 km (52 mi).

2002 March 15 - . 11:15 GMT - . Launch Site: Poker Flat. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion NASA 30.52UE.
  • Aeronomy mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: NASA. Apogee: 85 km (52 mi).

2002 March 15 - . 13:03 GMT - . Launch Site: Poker Flat. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion NASA 30.50UE.
  • Aeronomy mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: NASA. Apogee: 85 km (52 mi).

2002 March 15 - . 13:42 GMT - . Launch Site: Poker Flat. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion NASA 30.51UE.
  • Aeronomy mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: NASA. Apogee: 85 km (52 mi).

2002 March 18 - . 21:07 GMT - . Launch Site: Poker Flat. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion NASA 30.47UO.
  • SRP-4 Education / ionosphere mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: NASA. Apogee: 89 km (55 mi).

2002 July 2 - . 01:44 GMT - . Launch Site: Andoya. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion MIDAS.
  • MM-MI-12 Aeronomy / fields mission - . Nation: Germany. Agency: DLR. Apogee: 106 km (65 mi).

2002 July 5 - . 01:10 GMT - . Launch Site: Andoya. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion MIDAS.
  • MM-MI-24 Aeronomy mission - . Nation: Germany. Agency: DLR. Apogee: 85 km (52 mi).

2002 July 5 - . 01:42 GMT - . Launch Site: Andoya. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion MIDAS.
  • MM-MI-25 Aeronomy mission - . Nation: Germany. Agency: DLR. Apogee: 85 km (52 mi).

2003 July 1 - . 09:23 GMT - . Launch Site: SvalRak. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion ROMA RO-MI-01.
  • ROMA 2003 Aeronomy mission - . Nation: Germany. Agency: DLR. Apogee: 85 km (52 mi).

2003 July 4 - . 08:20 GMT - . Launch Site: SvalRak. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion ROMA RO-MI-02.
  • ROMA 2003 Aeronomy mission - . Nation: Germany. Agency: DLR. Apogee: 85 km (52 mi).

2003 July 6 - . 08:23 GMT - . Launch Site: SvalRak. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion ROMA RO-MI-03.
  • ROMA 2003 Aeronomy mission - . Nation: Germany. Agency: DLR. Apogee: 85 km (52 mi).

2003 October 9 - . 11:37 GMT - . Launch Site: Wallops Island. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion NASA 30.54UO.
  • Student rocket Education mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: NASA. Apogee: 64 km (39 mi).

2004 October 28 - . 19:49 GMT - . Launch Site: Kiruna. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion SSC REXUS II.
  • REXUS-2/ECOMA Education/Meteor mission - . Nation: Sweden. Agency: DLR; SSC. Apogee: 91 km (56 mi). The REXUS program was a joint project between the Swedish Space Corporation SSC, ESRANGE, and the Mobile Rocket Base (Moraba) of the German Aerospace Center DLR, conducted by newly founded EUROLAUNCH. The scientific payload capacity was shared between Swedish and German student experimenters. REXUS was considered as an annual sounding rocket program.

2005 January 10 - . 04:37 GMT - . Launch Site: Kiruna. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion SSC MAGIC.
  • MAGIC Meteorite dust mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: SSC. Apogee: 95 km (59 mi).

2005 March 15 - . 05:45 GMT - . Launch Site: Poker Flat. Launch Complex: Poker Flat LC3. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion NASA 30.58UE.
  • DUST Aeronomy / dust mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: NASA. Apogee: 105 km (65 mi).

2005 March 15 - . 07:45 GMT - . Launch Site: Poker Flat. Launch Complex: Poker Flat LC2. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion NASA 30.59UE.
  • DUST Aeronomy / dust mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: NASA. Apogee: 105 km (65 mi).

2005 May 17 - . 11:14 GMT - . Launch Site: Wallops Island. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion NASA 30.56UO.
  • MAGIC Aeronomy mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: NASA. Apogee: 90 km (55 mi).

2005 June 9 - . 10:32 GMT - . Launch Site: Wallops Island. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion NASA 30.61NO.
  • Student rocket Education mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: NASA. Apogee: 49 km (30 mi).

2005 July 4 - . 08:41 GMT - . Launch Site: Andoya. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion HP-200 Hotel.
  • IMEF Aeronomy / ionosphere mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: NDRE. Apogee: 100 km (60 mi).

2005 September 9 - . 02:45 GMT - . Launch Site: White Sands. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion NASA 30.062DR.
  • Acoustic monitoring Calibration mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: NASA; USN. Apogee: 50 km (31 mi).

2005 September 9 - . 06:14 GMT - . Launch Site: White Sands. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion NASA 30.063DR.
  • Acoustic monitoring Calibration mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: NASA; USN. Apogee: 50 km (31 mi).

2005 September 29 - . 09:15 GMT - . Launch Site: White Sands. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion NASA 30.070DR.
  • Telemetry test - . Nation: USA. Agency: NASA; USN. Apogee: 90 km (55 mi).

2005 November 9 - . 15:40 GMT - . Launch Site: White Sands. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion NASA 30.071DR.
  • Target - . Nation: USA. Agency: NASA; NAWC. Apogee: 90 km (55 mi).

2006 April 5 - . 05:56 GMT - . Launch Site: Kiruna. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion REXUS 3.
  • Education mission - . Nation: Sweden. Agency: DLR; SSC. Apogee: 95 km (59 mi).

2006 July 1 - . 07:05 GMT - . Launch Site: Andoya. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion HotPay-1. FAILURE: Failure.
  • Aeronomy mission - . Nation: USA. Agency: ARR. Apogee: 40 km (24 mi).

2006 July 21 - . 09:04 GMT - . Launch Site: White Sands. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion NASA 30.066DR.
  • Target - . Nation: USA. Agency: NASA; NAWC. Apogee: 90 km (55 mi).

2006 July 21 - . 13:05 GMT - . Launch Site: White Sands. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion NASA 30.067DR.
  • Target - . Nation: USA. Agency: NASA; NAWC. Apogee: 90 km (55 mi).

2008 October 27 - . 06:08 GMT - . Launch Site: Natal. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion.
  • Parelhas - . Nation: Brazil. Apogee: 95 km (59 mi).

2009 January 10 - . 23:17 GMT - . Launch Site: Poker Flat. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion.
  • NASA 30.073UO - . Nation: USA. Agency: NASA Greenbelt. Class: Earth. Type: Ionosphere satellite. Apogee: 98 km (60 mi).

2009 March 12 - . 10:08 GMT - . Launch Site: Kiruna. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion.
  • SSC REXUS 6 - . Nation: Sweden. Apogee: 88 km (54 mi). Summary: Ionos./Tech.

2009 March 13 - . 06:00 GMT - . Launch Site: Kiruna. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion.
  • SSC REXUS 5 - . Nation: Sweden. Apogee: 87 km (54 mi). Summary: Atmos./Tech.

2009 May 29 - . 13:25 GMT - . Launch Site: Alcantara. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion.
  • Maracati 1 - . Nation: Brazil. Apogee: 93 km (57 mi). Summary: Test.

2010 March 2 - . 07:25 GMT - . Launch Site: Kiruna. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion.
  • SSC REXUS 7 - . Nation: Sweden. Apogee: 83 km (51 mi). Summary: Aeronomy/Technology payload.

2010 March 4 - . 10:15 GMT - . Launch Site: Kiruna. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion.
  • SSC REXUS 8/ - . Nation: Sweden. Apogee: 88 km (54 mi). Summary: Technology payload.

2010 December 6 - . 17:19 GMT - . Launch Site: Alcantara. LV Family: Hawk. Launch Vehicle: Improved Orion. LV Configuration: Improved Orion s/n V03.
  • Maracati 2 - . Nation: Brazil. Apogee: 103 km (64 mi). Summary: Range test prior to Microg 1A launch..

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