TacSat-4 Makes Its Move
The U.S. Department of the Navy prepared well as they moved toward September 27th, the selected date for the launch of the new, joint tactical satellite, which will bring on-the-go communications to the battlefield. The Tactical Microsatellite (TacSat)-4, funded by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and developed by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), will start transmitting data 30 days after the satellite attains its planned orbit.
"TacSat-4 fills a Navy and Marine Corps capability gap by enabling 'comms on the move,'" said Bob McCoy, an ONR senior scientist. "That is a unique feature of this system — no other Department of Defense [DoD] satellite system can relay information from the satellite all the way down to warfighters' portable communications packs and handheld radios."
It enables warfighters to use a regular handheld radio for mobile communications without having to stop and set up an antenna in the field. This eliminates downtime and maintains connectivity to the base of operations at all times, so one is never out of touch, said John Moniz, ONR's program officer for Expeditionary Warfare Command, Control, Computers and Communication, whose work could potentially benefit from the TacSat-4 satellite.
The fourth-generation microsatellite, TacSat-4 is a fourth-generation (4G) microsatellite and weighs in at 990 pounds, as opposed to the industry average of approximately 4,300 pounds. The just-launched satellite is less expensive than a conventional system and is designed to support traditional satellite communications, providing two hours of global coverage up to three times per day in multiple theaters within a 24-hour period.
"This gives additional capability and more communications channels to where there's a 'hot spot' in the world," McCoy said.
TacSat-4's communication is also flexible and faster, providing dynamic channel assignments within 24 hours during normal operations rather than the typical several days. It offers a smarter, more efficient way of assigning channels.
The satellite carries an ONR-sponsored payload built by NRL on infrastructure funded by the former DoD Office of Force Transformation and built by NRL and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. The Operationally Responsive Space Office funded the launch, which is managed by the Space Development and Test Directorate, a directorate of the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, and launched via a Minotaur-IV rocket built by Orbital Sciences.
As of October 3rd, the satellite into its checkout phase and the TacSat-4 spacecraft bus is functioning fully on-orbit. The 12-foot 'umbrella-like' UHF antenna has been deployed and RF tones have successfully been sent through all 10 UHF channels. The X-band downlink is functional as is the advance thermal loop heat pipe system.
ONR provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps' technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning, and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people who are comprised of uniformed, civilian, and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C. The website for the Naval Research Laboratory is http://www.nrl.navy.mil/
TacSat-4 successfully launched September 27th aboard an Orbital Sciences Minotaur-IV+ launch vehicle from the Alaska Aerospace Corporation's (AAC) Kodiak Launch Complex, located on Kodiak Island, Alaska.
The spacecraft augments current geosynchronous satellite communications, having an apogee of 12,050 kilometers in the high latitudes to deliver near, although not continuous, global communications on-the-move (COTM) to the battlefield and provide access to mountainous regions that have previously proved problematic.
TacSat-4 is a Navy-led joint mission that provides 10 Ultra High Frequency (UHF) channels and allows forward deployed troops to communicate from obscured regions using existing hand-held radios without the need to stop and point an antenna towards the satellite.
"TacSat-4 supports a critical warfighting requirement: communication," said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Nevin Carr. "We've developed a technology that will supplement traditional satellites, giving military personnel on the ground another outlet for data transmission and facilitating 'comms on the move'."
TacSat-4 provides flexible up and down channel assignments, which increase the ability to operate in busy radio-frequency environments and will cover the high latitudes and mountainous areas where users currently cannot access UHF satellite communications.
The NRL Blossom Point Ground Station provides the command and control for TacSat-4 and maintains its user Virtual Mission Operations Center (VMOC) tasking system, allowing dynamic reallocation to different theaters worldwide and enables rapid SATCOM augmentation when unexpected operations or natural events occur.
TacSat-4 is an experimental spacecraft that will test advances in several technologies and SATCOM techniques. It will augment the existing fleet by giving the SATCOM Support Centers (SSC) an additional space asset to provide communications to otherwise under-served users and areas that either do not have high enough priority, or do not have satellite visibility. The project will potentially provide the option for launching smaller highly elliptical orbit (HEO) satellites and enabling 24-hour coverage in multiple regions simultaneously, allowing the military to achieve the benefits of a combined HEO and geosynchronous orbit constellation.
The spacecraft bus was built by NRL and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) to mature ORS bus standards. It was developed by an Integrated System Engineering Team (government and industry), known as the the "ISET Team," with active representation from AeroAstro, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, Johns Hopkins Laboratory APL, ATK Space, Ball Aerospace and Technologies, Boeing, Design Net Engineering, General Dynamics AIS, Microcosm, Microsat Systems Inc., Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory, Orbital Sciences, NRL, SMC, Space Systems/ Loral, and Raytheon.
The Office of Naval Research (ONR) sponsored the development of the payload and funded the first year of operations. The Office of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E) funded the standardized spacecraft bus. The Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office funded the launch that was performed by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC).
TacSat-4 is managed by the Naval Research Laboratory, Naval Center for Space Technology and marks NRL's 100th satellite.
The Launch Vehicle
The Minotaur IV Space Launch Vehicle (SLV) leverages the flight-proven heritage of the Minotaur I, Pegasus, and Taurus space launch vehicles to provide an extremely cost-effective and capable space solution for U.S. Government-sponsored spacecraft. It builds on a long background of dependable launch systems with over 50 flights of each core stage. The combination of three government-furnished solid rocket stages, a commercial solid rocket upper stage, and Orbital's flight-proven systems and processes provide an unmatched mix of value and performance. The integration of government motors with commercial boosters and state-of-the-art hardware is one of Orbital's unique strengths from experience spanning several decades, including the use of the Peacekeeper Stage 1 motor on three successful Taurus missions.
For the Minotaur IV, the standard Minotaur-family avionics, flight software, and subsystems are integrated into a Guidance Control Assembly (GCA) which also incorporates the Stage 4 solid motor. The baseline Stage 4 motor is the same Orion 38 design used on Minotaur I, Pegasus, Taurus, and other Orbital launch vehicles. An optional Star 48V motor is available for additional performance in the Minotaur IV+ configuration, which was used to launch the TacSat-4 satellite.
The OSP-2 Minotaur IV SLV combines elements of government-furnished decommissioned Peacekeeper boosters with technologies from the Company's proven Pegasus®, Taurus® and OSP Minotaur launch vehicles. The vehicle consists of three Peacekeeper solid rocket stages, a commercial Orion 38 fourth stage motor and subsystems derived from our established space launch boosters. Under a 10-year contract with the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, Orbital will develop and operate the low-cost Minotaur IV vehicle to launch U.S. government-funded satellites into low- Earth orbit.
The Minotaur IV SLV incorporates a standard 92-inch fairing from the Taurus booster and supports dedicated or shared launch missions. Capable of boosting payloads more than 1,750 kg into orbit, the vehicle is compatible with multiple U.S. government and commercial launch sites. The Minotaur IV is designed to provide 18-month mission response including payload integration and launch by Orbital's experienced launch crews.
The Minotaur IV launch vehicle made its debut in 2010, with three successful launches in a six month period in three different configurations. The inaugural launch boosted DARPA's Hypersonic Test Vehicle on a suborbital trajectory in April 2010. The first Minotaur IV mission to boost a satellite into orbit occurred on September 25, 2010, successfully launching the SBSS satellite for the U.S. Air Force.
The Minotaur family of launch vehicles are provided via the Orbital/Suborbital Program 2 (OSP-2) and managed by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), Space Development and Test Wing's (SDTW) Launch Test Squadron (LTS) located at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico. — information courtesy of Orbital Sciences. Additional details are available at http://www.orbital.com/SpaceLaunch/Minotaur/IV/.
The Launch Facility
Kodiak Launch Complex (KLC) was the nation's first commercial spaceport not col-located on a federal range. Situated approximately 44 road miles south of the city of Kodiak at Narrow Cape on Kodiak Island, the spaceport is a state-of-the-industry launch facility. Vigilance, regularly scheduled maintenance, and periodic upgrades govern day-to-day activity. KLC is situated on 3,717 acres of state owned land, and AAC has authority during launch missions to limit public access to an additional 7,000 acres to assure public safety and security.
KLC is the nation's only high latitude full service spaceport. It features all indoor, all weather, processing and was designed specifically to provide optimal support for space launches to polar orbit, including circular and highly elliptical Molniya and Tundra orbits.
KLC offers unrestricted down range launch azimuths ranging from 110 to 220 degrees, and is the only U.S. facility that can launch high inclination (63.4 degree) missions without land over-flight and the requirement to resort to energy consuming dogleg flight segments. The spaceport, like all U.S. west coast facilities, sits on the seismically active Pacific Rim, and all structures and components are designed to exceed applicable design criteria for seismically active zones.
Rocket motors and payloads come to KLC via sea and air, depending on dsize and customer needs. AAC can provide complete logistics services from the other 49 states or overseas to KLC through its subcontractors, or the customer can arrange for logistics directly.
Ports of entry include the regional airport, which is collocated with the U.S. Coast Guard Base near the town of Kodiak, and the LASH Dock, a marine terminal located adjacent to the U.S. Coast Guard Base. Transport from the port of entry is by all-weather paved highway to KLC. A typical motor convoy to KLC includes a pilot and trail car, State Trooper escort, and crew vehicles. In winter, the convoys are augmented with road graders and sanders. — information courtesy of Alaska Aerospace Corporation. For further details, access http://www.akaerospace.com.
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Better Late Than Never...
The first Advanced Extremely High Frequency space vehicle will arrive at its orbital slot in late October, instead of October 3, as projected in June.
In August of 2010, when AEHF-1 was launched, it experienced lower-than-expected thrust from its main bi-propellant engine (Liquid Apogee Engine). A team of United States Air Force military, federal civilian, Lockheed Martin and Aerospace Corporation engineers at the Space and Missile Systems Centers Military Satellite Communications Systems Directorate revised the AEHF-1 orbit-raising profile to use Hall Current Thrusters to raise the spacecraft to its intended operational orbit while maintaining the safety of the vehicle and conserving on-board fuel. The decision to slow down the orbit-raising plan was made to balance operational needs, space environmental factors and vehicle conditions.
As we go forward, were careful to understand the use of those thrusters and are monitoring closely the amount of fuel were using in order to continue to optimize overall satellite performance, said Mr. Dave Madden, director of SMCs MILSATCOM Systems Directorate. Currently, there are no changes to the previously anticipated mission capabilities at the completion of orbit transfer.
AEHF is a joint service satellite communications system that will provide survivable, global, secure, protected, and jam-resistant communications for high-priority military ground, sea and air assets. The AEHF System is the follow-on to the Milstar system, augmenting, improving and expanding the MILSATCOM architecture. The satellite remains stable and under Air Force control and is projected to meet its required 14 years of mission life. AEHF is developed by the MILSATCOM Systems Directorate at Los Angeles AFB, California.
The MILSATCOM Systems Directorate plans, acquires and sustains space-based global communications in support of the president, secretary of defense and combat forces. The MILSATCOM enterprise consists of satellites, terminals and control stations and provides communications for more than 16,000 air, land and sea platforms.
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A Most Admirable Award
Lockheed Martin [NYSE : LMT] congratulates the U.S. Air Force and the Global Positioning System (GPS) community for receiving the International Astronautical Federations (IAF) 60th Anniversary Award for outstanding achievement in the area of space applications for human benefit.
The prestigious IAF award, presented to the GPS program on October 4th in Cape Town, South Africa, recognizes the program for having the greatest measurable benefit to humanity in the history of space programs. The IAF noted that while there have been numerous scientific and technical achievements spawned from human and robotic spaceflight, satellite communications, weather satellites, remote sensing and more the GPS program provides the greatest measurable benefits every day to billions of people around the globe.
Similar to the Internet, GPS is an essential element of the global information infrastructure. GPS technology is found in everything from cell phones and wristwatches to shipping containers, and ATMs. The system boosts productivity across a wide swath of the economy, to include farming, construction, mining, surveying, supply chain management and more. Major communications networks, banking systems, financial markets, and power grids depend on GPS and the technology is embedded in virtually every U.S. military asset making armed forces safer and more effective.
The far-reaching applications of GPS today extend beyond anyones imagination when the program was conceived almost 40 years ago. We congratulate the U.S. Air Force and the entire GPS community for their remarkable vision and unrelenting diligence in building and operating a true global utility that improves the welfare of billions around the world every day, said Joe Trench, vice president of Navigation Systems for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. We take great pride in our partnership with the Air Force on its GPS program and we are steadfastly committed to providing even better GPS capabilities in the future.
Lockheed Martin designed and built 21 GPS IIR satellites for the U.S. Air Force and subsequently modernized eight of those spacecraft, designated GPS IIR-M, to enhance operations and navigation signal performance. The fleet of Lockheed Martin-built GPS IIR and IIR-M satellites makes up the majority of the operational GPS constellation. The satellites have exceeded 140 cumulative operational years on-orbit with a reliability record of better than 99.9 percent, an unmatched record of exceptional performance, and reliability for GPS users around the globe. Lockheed Martin heritage also dates back to the production of the Oscar and Nova satellites, the original navigation programs that paved the way to the current GPS system.
As GPS becomes increasingly vital to modern civilization, the U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin are developing the next generation system, known as GPS III. GPS III will be a catalyst for profound new applications as it brings on significant capabilities including increased accuracy, availability, anti-jam power, integrity and reliability. The satellites will also add a fourth civil signal that will be interoperable with International Global Navigation Satellite Systems, providing even better precision and increased Earth coverage. With first launch in 2014, GPS III is the lowest risk solution to constellation sustainment and the most affordable path to meet the needs of military, commercial and civilian users worldwide. Learn more about the history and future of GPS at http://www.lockheedmartin.com/gps.