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Weather poses problem for Friday rocket launch

Florida's first launch of Minotaur rocket scheduled at Cape

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Showers and thunderstorms threaten to dampen excitement over Florida's first launch of a Minotaur rocket, planned late Friday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Air Force meteorologists predict a 40 percent chance of favorable conditions at Launch Complex 46 during a four-hour window that opens at 11:15 p.m., News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

The odds drop to a 20 percent chance of acceptable weather should the launch slip to Saturday night, with lightning becoming a bigger concern.

Orbital ATK's four-stage, solid-fueled Minotaur IV rocket is making its Space Coast debut after five launches since 2010 from California and Alaska.

The 78-foot rocket, which uses a decommissioned Peacekeeper missile for its first three stages, is carrying a small Air Force satellite called SensorSat.

From low Earth orbit, the satellite will test sensors designed to track spacecraft flying high over the equator, in orbits critical for communications satellites and many other military spacecraft.

The mission labeled ORS-5, led by the Air Force's Operationally Responsive Space office, will be the first to take flight from state-run Launch Complex 46 since 1999.