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Satnews Daily
June 25th, 2009

Four Weeks Of TacSat-3 Success

The Tactical Satellite-3 has exceeded expectations and is performing well a month after being launched, according to the program manager of the experimental spacecraft.

TACSAT-3 satellite (USAF) Launched May 19th, TacSat-3 is managed by the Air Force Research Laboratory's Space Vehicles Directorate officials at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. The TacSat-3 features an onboard processor, which will provide real-time data, within 10 minutes of its collection, to the combatant commander in the theater of interest. Within 30 days of operation, the program has accomplished early on-orbit checkout and anticipates completing calibration procedures next week.

"All three payloads are operating properly," said Dr. Thomas Cooley, the TacSat-3 program manager. "The spacecraft has set a superior benchmark for the remaining 11 months of the mission, and the project team is excited about demonstrating the capability of providing rapid and responsive products to the warfighter." The highlights of TacSat-3's inaugural month of flight in low Earth orbit at approximately 425 kilometers (264 miles) altitude are:
  • Within two hours after launch, the spacecraft's solar arrays initiated power to operate key components, and controllers operated the satellite.
  • Approximately 48 hours following liftoff, program officials verified the functionality of the primary payload, the Advanced Responsive Tactically-Effective Military Imaging Spectrometer, and sensor processing.
  • During the first 2.5 days of the mission, the ARTEMIS sensor produced a high-resolution image, the satellite successfully communicated to a ground station via a high-bandwidth data link and operators discovered TacSat-3 had 50 percent more power than originally planned for due to the solar panels' efficiency.
  • Following cool down in the initial week, the ARTEMIS also conducted a hyperspectral image collect.
  • Between the first and second weeks, the Army Space and Missile Defense Battlelab Tactical Ground Station staff at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., successfully commanded TacSat-3. Also in week two, controllers initiated ARTEMIS focus operations and validated the spacecraft's autonomous software.
  • Between the second and third weeks, the 880-pound satellite proved its tactical mode by collecting and processing hyperspectral imagery, downloaded a tactical product within a single, 10-minute pass, and validated that the secondary payloads, the Office of Naval Research Space Communications Package and the AFRL Space Avionics Experiment, were performing as required.
Project personnel continue to tactically command TacSat-3 and refine how the spacecraft can quickly react to the evolving battlespace environment. Led by ARFL/RV, TacSat-3 is a collaboration involving the Army Space and Missile Defense Command, the Department of Defense's Operationally Responsive Space Office, the ONR, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Space Development and Test Wing and the AFRL Sensors Directorate.