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.
"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.