Aug. 15 (UPI) -- The U.S. Army has successfully launched a Kestrel Eye reconnaissance microsatellite aboard a SpaceX mission to the International Space Station.
The launch took place at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Monday and included cargo resupply for the ISS crew. The Kestrel Eye will be deployed from the ISS following a scheduled Japanese airlock experiment.
The Kestrel Eye is a 50-kilogram electro-optical imagery satellite about the size of a small refrigerator. It is designed to relay orbital reconnaissance imagery directly to soldiers on the ground rather than through stations in the continental United States.
The Army claims that the small satellites can be placed into orbit at $2 million a piece once it enters full-production, allowing more to be deployed than conventional satellites.
"Lower cost satellites can be deployed in larger numbers to provide higher revisits and offload demand from national technical means satellites," program deputy director Mark Ray said in a news release.
The Army expects each satellite to have a service life of more than a year.
The Kestrel Eye launch will serve as a test bed and technology demonstrator to determine whether to enter into full deployment of the system. If the program goes forward, the Army could potentially launch dozens of the microsatellites over the life of the program.