STPSat-3 satellite

The US Air Force (USAF) has taken over the operational control of the Ball Aerospace & Technologies-built space test program satellite-3 (STPSat-3) as the spacecraft starts its technology demonstration mission.

The satellite was launched onboard a Minotaur l launch vehicle from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia, US, along with 28 CubeSats as part of the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) operationally responsive space-3 (ORS-3) mission in November 2013.

Representing the second spacecraft to have been built by Ball for the DoD’s Space Test Program, the Standard Interface Vehicle (STP-SIV) programme, the satellite features five standard payload interfaces to support a range of experimental and risk reduction payloads at various low-earth orbits.

The SIV is a common spacecraft bus with standard payload interfaces designed to accelerate DoD’s space technology demonstrations and ensure future US space superiority.

Ball National Defense business unit vice-president and general manager Dave Kaufman said the SIV architecture is capable of reducing the cost and time required to access space, simultaneously maximising the opportunities for suitable payloads.

"The SIV architecture is capable of reducing the cost and time required to access space, simultaneously maximising the opportunities for suitable payloads."

"STPSat-3’s predecessor, STPSat-2, just passed its three-year anniversary on orbit and has proven the robustness of the SIV design," Kaufman said.

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STPSat-3’s payloads include integrated miniaturised electrostatic analyser reflight (iMESA-R), a USAF Academy mission designed to measure plasma densities and energies, joint component research (J-CORE), strip sensor unit (SSU), small wind and temperature spectrometre (SWATS) and total solar irradiance (TSI) calibration transfer experiment (TCTE).

The satellite, which roughly measures the size of a mini refrigerator, also carries a de-orbit module for the DoD, NASA and NOAA.

Managed by the US Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, Space Development & Test Directorate, the ORS-3 mission involves demonstration, evaluation and verification of rapid response spacecraft technologies to decrease launch timelines and reduce mission costs.

Image: The STPSat-3 satellite was launched along with 28 CubeSats in support of USAF’s operationally responsive space-3 mission. Photo: © 2013 Ball Aerospace.

Defence Technology