Tactical satellite surpasses expectations

June 13, 2011 at 7:03 AM
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MINNEAPOLIS, June 13 (UPI) -- An experimental, U.S. demonstration tactical satellite designed for six months of operation has provided hyperspectral imaging for two years.

"TacSat-3's longevity and robustness shows that our innovative bus technology was a key factor in the success of this mission," said Tom Wilson, vice president and general manager, Spacecraft Systems and Services, a division of Minnesota's ATK Aerospace Systems. "We are already applying and enhancing our flexible, modular bus platforms for future small satellite missions that include the ORS-1 spacecraft.

"This technology is also well-suited for commercial and international missions where affordability, high performance and a short turnaround are necessary."

Launched in May 2009, TacSat-3's mission is to demonstrate capability to conduct hyperspectral imaging that is responsive to the needs the U.S. military. Since then, the spacecraft has delivered more than 2,100 images and demonstrated the ability to transmit processed data to a ground station within 10 minutes.

The spacecraft is a pioneer of the emerging Operationally Responsive Space program, which was designed to meet the growing need of U.S. forces for flexible, affordable and responsive satellite systems.

ATK, as the spacecraft bus prime contractor, provided the complete bus system, which included the onboard command and data handling system, solar arrays, spacecraft bus primary structure and interfaces to the launch vehicle and payload.

The spacecraft also featured first-generation modular bus technology designed to provide flexibility for future small satellite missions.

Like TacSat-3, the Operationally Responsive Space-1 mission focuses on the quick deployment of small satellites with innovative sensor technologies to provide operationally responsive ISR support to commanders in the battlefield. ORS-1 is to be launched this year.

The TacSat-3 program is managed by the U.S. Air Force Space Command with collaboration from the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate and the Army Space and Missile Defense Command.

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