Decades Old Nuclear Missiles Finally Launched As Orbital Rockets

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The Minotaur Series of rockets developed by Orbital Sciences corporation probably incorporate some of the oldest bits of hardware currently launching things into space. The Minotaur 1 is based on old Minuteman II boosters, while the Minotaur IV uses old Peacekeeper boosters.
These use missiles which were decommissioned and placed in storage decades ago, but with some quality checks they’re cleared to fly again and carry government payloads into space.

  1. ralikdiver

    I did not know about this. I thought it odd. I knew we had lots of old solid propellant boosters left over from various programs. I worked on C-3 Poseidon in the Navy. I was thinking just a few weeks ago that someone should be able to use them for small, low earth orbital launches.

  2. M Aube

    Do missiles need to throttle-down for maximum dynamic pressure like a crewed rocket?

  3. The Umm Kingdom

    Am I earlty noice ( i watched the launch)

  4. Ryan Linden

    This thing gets moving QUICK!. What’s that TWR like 2.5 or something?

  5. htomerif

    In another 20 years we’ll have a whole new pile of aging orbital weapons platforms needing satellites to launch.

  6. CaptainDuckman

    They should never have retired Peacekeeper, instead building a few hundred more of them to replace the remaining Minuteman missiles.

  7. Kindly Patriarch

    Mr. Burns is pleased that these ‘do-nothing nuclear missiles’ are finally being put to use.

  8. Aaron Peavler/Geomodelrai

    good to see the Minotaurs being used my uncle built all of them and my grandpa and his brothers designed them.


    I was hoping they’d have their original payloads so we could put an end to 2020.

  10. Bryan Guzik

    Great example of human strife being an enormous driver for advancement all-around.

  11. Siberian Orange

    Anyone else notice the frog at 9:25?

    Lol, duh. Guess I should’ve waited a second

  12. Ratty Woof

    4:52 – is that former President LBJ on the right? Sure looks like him!

  13. Rick Lee

    I can’t imagine that you’d be able to put a lot of payloads on top because of the high loads at launch

  14. p38sheep

    My grand father was one of the lead electrical engineers for Martin Marietta when they were making both of these rockets. He did work on the voyager,Viking ,mariner, titan LV and a bunch of other stuff. Your legacy lives on Gramps. Semper Fi Marine.

  15. Don Sparrow

    “Looks guys, what if we take our first stage, and put another first stage under that one?”

  16. casey johnson

    hey scott, ive got an interesting idea that id like some feedback on. So ive been rewatching some older videos of some other youtubers and saw them using peltier units as coolers. apply voltage and it makes a hot side and a cold side. these can be used in reverse so cool one side and heat another to create voltage. now my idea is for low power satalites. using the special paint that is absolute black and absorbs 99% of all light energy, paint one side of the peltier so it gets hot. the other side will stay cool and generate power. do you think this would be a viable alternative to solar panels in space or do you think it wouldnt work as effectively?

  17. Benjamin Shropshire

    The thrust termination system on that third stage has always seemed funny to me. It seems to me that near the end of the flight, there should be some acceleration vector that doesn’t alter the point of impact (only the time). Or to put it another way, there should be a velocity component that minimally alters (as in makes no change) to the point of impact. Unless that direction ends up rotating rapidly, I’d think it would be simpler and more robust to just plot a trajectory that lets the rocket end its trust along that vector than add extra hardware to shut it down.

    I’ve occasionally wondered why they didn’t do that.

  18. 10 Gauge

    I was there the launch woke me up. I thought it was just a plane flying over. XD. I can’t believe I missed that.

  19. john hopkins

    Talk about gettin’ yer moneys’ worth… (question: how much did Grumman sell them for? how much to buy them back??)

  20. Mark Stedmond

    Tech 1: ‘ok ive put the 11 nuclear warheads from the minitor rocket back on the shelf.”
    Tech 2: ’11’?
    Tech 1: ‘oh crap’


    Wow larger thrust than the weight,just like how i build my orbital class rocket

  22. zvpunry

    Star-Trek Fun Fact: Zefram Cochrane, born in 2030, used a Titan II to build the worlds first warp-capable space ship. It launched in 2063 and at this time Zefram already looked like he was 70 years old, even though he was just 33. All the engineering problems, trying to invent the impossible, gave him grey hairs. ;)

  23. Sean McDonough

    8:58 – Until someone puts a superpowerful laser or something on their satellite to blind the spysat looking at it. :-P

  24. sebsunda

    DDAAAAAMMMMNNNN!!! If that insane speed is 80’s tech, I’m scared of what might exist today (O_o)

  25. J C

    Ever since Star Trek First Contact, I’ve wondered why we didn’t hear about ICBMs being converted from missiles to rockets.

  26. Gabriel hace cosas.

    9:23¿ Frog or pareidolia?

  27. The Lore Explorer

    Excellent, interesting topic scott. Thanks for teaching me about rocket science and orbital mechanics.

    ps – A “limited edition run” of Outer Wilds is available right now! but there is only a few days left to get it! I know you love that game so I figured id give you a heads up!

  28. Juan Ignacio Morales Volo

    I watched the launch live and it really took me by surprise when the rocket pitched right away after leaving the pad. Then the NASA host explained that was normal and to expect from the Minotaur IV, and I felt like the rookie I am.

  29. JorgenandSandy Hoberg

    Love the smoke ring that comes out of the solo when launched. (Sans warhead, of course!)😂

  30. Bruce Boyden

    The USA does this with old military ordinance every ten years or so.
    They get a lot of out of date weapons and find a war that we didn’t know we needed.
    Old weapons expended, create more contracts replacing the old.
    Win, win, Dick Cheney and his scummy mates.

  31. вaka

    The rockets became supersonic in seconds because they were happy to be going to space decades after their creation

  32. Desert Ants

    *literally everyone
    “About damn time”

  33. Oliver Foggin

    The pronunciation of “Minotaur” is just bizarre. Is that an American thing?

  34. Prachur Gupta

    2:33 Damn look at the acceleration

  35. Gresvig

    Seems like a great source of highly developed and otherwise wasted hardware– hope they change the rules and a few other companies get into using them. Might as well get a few bucks back from the untold billions wasted on juvenile saber rattling.

  36. rpavlik1

    Jeepers that looks like it’s going out of control…

    Also I see what they did there: Pegasus (flying horse) on top, Minuteman on bottom, yep that’s a Minotaur 🤣

  37. Casual Bird

    Seeing those minuteman 2nd and 3rd stages makes me see where the original solid rocket motors in KSP came from

  38. Strati Mitchell

    Orbital ATK: the ultimate ktibash company in American aerospace.

  39. Jonas W

    I like to pause at 8:38 and imagine that the glaring light from the spotlight is actually a giant lit fuse for the rocket.

  40. john bailey

    Just need to add some nacelles and we’re living the Star Trek timeline 🚀✨

  41. EwingTaiwan

    2:22 I didn’t know that 中華衛星二號(FORMOSAT-2) was launched on one of those!! Thank you Scott!

  42. Craig Corson

    Am I mistaken, or is that ground vehicle at 3:31 a TerraCruzer?

  43. Sheepwars

    9:28 That’s the most Kerbal way of designing rockets I have heard so far. The good old Add Moar Booster trick to increase the capability of your rocket.

  44. germimonte

    0:43 “peace keeper missile” xDDDD America is the irl version of playing a stealth game by killing everyone

  45. AugmentedGravity

    9:21 oh no poor boi

  46. alanoneuser

    Nice to hear these old weapons are being used for a less destructive purpose

  47. Bob Roberts

    6:57 I always like product data sheets , for what amounts to an item that is unattainable by a normal company , that look like what the office photo copier or forklift salesman passes out.
    7:59 “. . I’d like to thank ” Larry’s Rocket Salvage and Lou-Ann’s Diner for their support . . . “

  48. swiper sniper

    A question has bugged me for a while: why doesn’t every country use it’s ICBMs as launch vehicles?

  49. Helium Road

    6:53 I like that 80s graphic design, like an ad for a toy rocket. “Get the new Peacekeeper Nuclear Missile by Hasbro! You and your friends will have hours of enjoyment posturing, threatening, and even nuking each other!”

  50. ariantes221

    Is it really surprising that they still work after sitting in storage for so long? After all, they were designed to sit in launchbays for years to be launched at a moments noticed in case nuclear war broke out.

  51. Tom Watts

    I got the pop-up notification saying ‘Decades-old Nuclear Missiles Finally Launched’ and genuinely for a microsecond thought someone had launched a pre-emptive strike

  52. Freddie Samuel

    15k likes and 8 dislikes, that’s why Scott manly makes the best videos

  53. John Smith

    You’ll all be happy to hear that the company, Hydro Extrusions Portland, that falsified parts tests for decades and caused the two launch failures that resulted in the destruction of $1bn of NASA environmental satellites, has reached a deal with DOJ to pay just $34mil and stay in business. Don’t you just love it when your hard earned tax dollar go to helping crooked big businesses?

  54. Alex Landherr

    At 7:34, Oomph: For When Engineering Terminology Just Doesn’t Cut It.

  55. Petter Birgersson

    “And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Mika 4:3

  56. Sean McDonough

    10:26 – Yeah, like anyone pays those agreements any heed anyways.

  57. MrOvimik

    ahahaha, “and here’s a frog flying away”, that is gold!

  58. Brett Hunter

    “Ready to go at a moment’s notice”
    Sorta the point of a MAD retaliation weapon, no?

  59. Mang Vel Khai

    It’s a good way to recycle the rockets, clear the old inventory. I just hope that they don’t charge more than it should and make 💰.

  60. daemonhat

    i’m Scott Manley, f… (ad break)… ly safe.

  61. Harry Schaefer

    I remember the the blasted frog. I was able to see that nightime launch from Wallops Island from my home in Silver Spring Maryland. I love the night launches from Wallops.

  62. Robert Lutece

    “In all these cases I find it fascinating that many of these rockets have sat in storage for decades and they’re pretty much still ready to go at a moment’s notice.”
    That’s why we use SRBs for ICBMs. The older Russian stuff is liquid, but I doubt it’s really ready to go at a moment’s notice.

  63. Thomas

    Reading the title I thought: Hopefully they didn’t forget to remove the nuclear warhead before launch…

  64. ron genske

    My favorite YouTube channel, hands down. CLOSELY followed by Tim Dodd “The Everyday Astronaut”. Scott Manley, you’re awesome!

  65. José Acuña

    Rocket engineers: let’s make an orbital rocket with ICBM’s

    Internet: hahahaja frog goes swishh

  66. Makar Lock

    Elon Musk in like 2001: did somebody say purchase Russian ICBM launch?
    Elon Musk in 2002: ok nvm i’m doing it myself

  67. A Barbarian Horde


  68. zapfanzapfan

    1:46 An ICBM blowing a smoke ring, you have to appreciate the little things…

  69. Andrew Tubbiolo

    You should do the R-36/SS-18 family of ICBM/Launch Vehicle. Fascinating technology fascinating history.

  70. UKR_charlie .

    At 9:23 there is a flying frog 😂

  71. Dmytro Picky

    would be interesting to hear more on how icbms keep orientation and such a high accuracy aim independently and over long flight. solutions used for managing solid boosters also very interesting

  72. El Kudos

    This time “Fly safe” has a but more to it, innit?

  73. LordMightyTrousers

    Makes me feel happy inside to see them repurposed like that.

  74. Sax Beat

    It’s kinda wholesome how weapons of mass destruction converted into peaceful rockets for satellites

  75. Bob

    Welcome to Mercury 2: Mercury Harder
    (only 60 years late)

  76. Paul Haynes

    “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” And they said we were dreamers in CND.

  77. R Dyer

    Fascinating! Would be cool to see altitude and velocity vs. time graphs as compared to the Falcon 9. Also would like to see where Max-Q would be on those graphs.

  78. The Monolith

    Imagine how excited those rockets are to be finally going into space … I always think of them as early versions of the bomb from Dark Star

  79. Carlos Aragon

    “you remember when alliance changed this thingy, right?”

    Me on every SM video “oh yeah sure of course”

  80. Symbiote Mullet

    I really like that you can see the supersonic shock forming exactly as Scott says the word “Supersonic”. Good planning!

  81. Micah T.

    Thanks Scott- Fly safe

    Edit: Why have I never heard of this frog?!

  82. Wayne Flanigan

    5:49 the first number in the clock, 139, is the day of the year.

  83. John Paul Lafferty

    Fly safe, say that to the frog. 🐸 it’s funny you mention this when talking about using nuclear delivery devices!

  84. boatsport88

    FYI – Thiokol, Hercules, and Alliant Techsystems became a part of ATK then Orbital ATK then Northrop Grumman

  85. Jason Carswell

    “Repurposed ICBM, you say?”

    *Zefram Cochrane wants to know your location*

  86. Manuel Barkhau

    “due to a supplier that forged test data”. Where have I heard that before. Seems to be a pattern.

  87. Jon Reeves

    It was shocking when they called Mach 2 and about 10 seconds later called out Mach 3. These things are quick.

  88. Daniel van der Merwe

    I’d rather see a nuke go off in 8k resolution. Not killing anyone of coarse :p

  89. Hanz Cedric

    I Lost it when the *”Launched a frog into internet fame”* was mentioned 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

  90. DVasymmetry

    I keep thinking, “Store in a cool, dry place.” for the retired boosters.

  91. _iPhoenix_

    I mean, better than finally using them as nukes :D

  92. Neon Empire

    Is the high TWR a problem for satellites? How can a satellite be adapted to these structural loads and vibrations?

  93. Chris Casper

    “I find it fascinating that these rockets have sat around in storage for decades and they’re pretty much still ready to go at a moment’s notice.” I think that’s a primary design criteria for ICBMs. 😀 Any idea whether the launch data feeds back into the USAF to help maintain the current ICBM arsenal?

  94. Damien Drouart

    “Fly safe” on top of a repurposed nuclear ICBM.

  95. Emma Beyer

    *Launches Rocket*

    “We took out the nuclear payload, right?”

    “Uh oh…”

    The launch was truly spectacular, and I can only imagine how loud that rocket is!

  96. Benjamin Brooks

    “I’m Scott Manley” [ad] “Fly safe”
    Why, YouTube?

  97. Solosaur

    This channel is such an oasis. No politics, no controversy, no begging for Likes and Subscriptions, just straight up quality content and production. Thanks Scott, you’re a class act.

  98. BON3S McCOY

    “The only space vehicle I can think of launched from under water” definitely sounds like it needs its own video if it doesnt already have one.

  99. Jeremy Klein

    There’s even an Orion stage? They need to stop naming space things Orion; it’s getting too confusing!

  100. Quazar501

    “It goes supersonic in something like 15 seconds” – so the standard KSP ascent profile

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