The Air Force’s Operational Responsive Space (ORS)-5 satellite will track satellites and space junk.
With a Flight Readiness Review successfully concluded August 17, the Air Force’s Operational Responsive Space (ORS)-5 satellite is now ready for its journey to equatorial orbit from Space Launch Complex-46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. It is scheduled to launch August 25 during a four-hour launch window that opens at 11:15 p.m., EDT, after being stacked and mated atop a five-stage Orbital ATK Minotaur IV launch vehicle.
ORS-5, also known as SensorSat, was encapsulated August 11 at the Astrotech Space Operations Florida processing facility in preparation for its upcoming launch. Encapsulation of ORS-5 marked the satellite’s completion of all major testing prior to transfer to LC-46. The stacking of the Minotaur IV launch vehicle and integration events on the launch pad with the payload are significant milestones in ORS-5’s launch progress.
At $87.5 million ($49 million satellite, $11.3 million ground system, $27.2 million launch), ORS-5 measures about five feet long and two and a half feet wide and weighs about 250 pounds (113 kg). The satellite will be placed into a low earth orbit approximately 372 miles (599 kilometers) at zero degrees inclination for test and checkout.
It will remain in that orbit over a three-year design life to aid the U.S. military’s tracking of other satellites and space debris in geosynchronous orbit, 22,236 miles above the equator, commonly used by defense-related communications satellites, television broadcasting stations, and international space platforms. ORS-5 will deliver space situational awareness capabilities at a significantly reduced cost compared to larger, more complex satellites, and serves as a gap filler mission for the Space-Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) Block 10 mission, originally launched in 2010. A successor SBSS mission is not expected to launch before 2021.
This satellite’s payload has one optical sensor that provides continuous, un-cued, rapid GEO belt search to detect changes and provide precise regional awareness. The sensors were built by the MIT LL in June of 2016, where they began integration with the bus. The fully integrated spacecraft went through several levels of testing to ensure its launch and mission readiness. The testing included subcomponent, component, and full satellite comprehensive functional testing, vibration testing, thermal vacuum testing, final integrated systems testing and factory compatibility testing.
These tests all provided a high level of confidence for the satellite’s ability to successfully perform its mission.
Air Force Space Command's Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base, California, is the U.S. Air Force's center of acquisition excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes the Global Positioning System, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space based infrared systems and space situational awareness capabilities.