Responsive, affordable satellite enhances support to warfighter |
by Michael P. Kleiman
Space Vehicles Directorate Public Affairs
3/17/2006 - KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFPN) -- In the battle environment, every second counts, and accelerated (within 10 minutes) information downloaded to the joint warfighter, to be demonstrated in the upcoming TacSat-3 mission, could result in victory, but more importantly, in lives saved.
Planned to launch in summer 2007, the TacSat-3 satellite, the collaborative effort will feature an onboard processor that provides real-time data to the combatant commander in the theater.
"TacSat-3 is a team effort. Partners include the Army Space and Missile Defense Command, Air Force Space Command, the Department of Defense's Office of Force Transformation, Office of Naval Research and the Air Force Research Laboratory," said Thom Davis, TacSat-3 program manager, AFRL's Space Vehicles Directorate here.
Originating in 2004 as part of the Responsive Space initiative, which addressed the military's need for responsive, flexible and affordable systems operating in space, the satellite will consist of three distinct payloads: the ARTEMIS hyperspectral imager (HSI); the Ocean Data Telemetry Microsatellite Link (ODTML); and the Space Avionics Experiment (SAE).
Serving as the mission's primary experiment, the hyperspectral imager, developed by Raytheon Company, will rapidly supply target detection and identification data, as well as initial preparation of the battlefield (disturbed earth) and battle damage assessment information requirements. In addition, a secondary payload provided by the Office of Naval Research will communicate information quickly to the warfighter.
The Ocean Data Telemetry Microsatellite Link will collect data from sea-based buoys and then transmit the information to a ground station. The SAE, designed and advanced at the Space Vehicles Directorate, will involve integrating the payload and spacecraft structure employing reprogrammable components.
Finally, through the work of the DOD's Office of Force Transformation, the small satellite, weighing less than 880 pounds, will include a standardized modular bus, which will be tested for its adaptability for use on future TacSat missions.
"The idea for responsive space came out of the requirements addressed by Air Force senior leaders that the combatant commander needed the ability to replenish and quickly augment current on-orbit capabilities," said the TacSat-3 program manager. "As a result of this need, the demonstrations featured on TacSat-3 will allow us to fly over the area of interest and provide the warfighter with real-time data."
The $50 million program has accomplished all key milestones to date, but the next several months will be critical in meeting the aggressive launch schedule. By early 2007, all three payloads will be moved to the Space Vehicles Directorate's Aerospace Engineering Facility for integration with modular bus and system-level testing.
While this process typically takes several months, the TacSat-3 program's goal is to complete all activities within 60 days. The satellite will then be shipped to the launch site and mated with the launch vehicle, which, at this point, has to be determined.
Serving as a key team member in the TacSat-3 project, the Space and Missile Systems Center's Detachment 12, also located at Kirtland AFB, has been reviewing possible responsive and affordable liftoff options such as the joint Air Force and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Force Application and Launch from Continental United States system, as well as the Space Exploration Technologies Corp.'s Falcon 1 rocket.
In addition, Det. 12 will assist with mission operations during TacSat-3's planned, one-year flight in low earth orbit at approximately 400 kilometers.
(Courtesy of Air Force Materiel Command News Service)