The U.S. Department of Defense said the nanosatellite was piggy-backed on a National Reconnaissance Office payload, which was carried aloft by an Atlas V rocket.
The U.S. Air Force launched the rocket. The U.S. military's Southern Command sponsored the experimental satellite, which weighs just 11 pounds.
Juan Hurtado, Southern Command's science and technology advisor, told the American Forces Press Service the nanosatellite could help overcome communications challenges in the vast mountainous and densely forested terrain within Latin America.
"This is a major milestone," he said. "This first space project for U.S. Southern Command represents a big step ahead. I feel like we are about ready to offer a transformational capability to support troops in the field, not just within Southern Command, but throughout the Department of Defense."
Hurtado said two additional nanosatellites could be launched in December of next year if the current demonstration proves successful. The three, in low-Earth orbit, would operate as a component of a communications suite that includes a ground station, ground sensors and tactical radios to support information-sharing and tactical communications over wide geographic area.
U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command oversaw satellite development. Cadre and students at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School will help Southern Command assess the operational value of the technology and the command's counterparts in Brazil will help evaluate its performance, the Defense Department said.
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