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The MS-1A is apparently the planned and not-yet-well-defined end product of USAF space manoeuvering vehicle research, which also includes the X-37, X-40, and X-41 (CAV).

Space Maneuver Vehicle (SMV)

Space is a critical enabler for our military force. Current space systems, however, have significant deficiencies in the ability to provide Space Superiority (the purpose of space control) and lack operational responsiveness. The rapid response, quick turnaround, and high on-orbit maneuverability of the Space Maneuver Vehicle can correct these shortfalls; it provides space asset protection that enables U.S. forces to achieve and maintain Space Superiority. Its ability to co-orbit with friendly space assets and provide on-orbit servicing and repair will extend the service life of other satellites.

The ability to deploy SMVs with a mix of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) payloads will provide an affordable, responsive and sustained presence to support diverse theaters of operation. The ability to integrate, operate, and recover and reuse the SMV with a variety of onboard or deployed payloads provides operational flexibility heretofore unattainable with traditional satellites. Finally, the SMV's operational flexibility will provide an opportunity fundamentally change the command and control of space systems in order to push control down to the theater CINC thus allowing the true integration of space into theater operations.

The Space Maneuver Vehicle (SMV) is envisioned as a small, powered, reusable space vehicle, operating as an upper stage on top of a reusable launch vehicle or as a reusable satellite bus with a variety of available payloads. It is part of the Military Spaceplane concept for future low cost, responsive space access.

The Air Force Research Laboratory's Space Maneuver Vehicle (SMV) is a small, powered space vehicle technology demonstrator. An eventual operational version could function as the second stage-to-orbit vehicle as well as a reusable satellite with a variety of available payloads. SMV could perform missions such as:

  • Tactical reconnaissance
  • Filling gaps in satellite constellations
  • Rapid deployment of Space Maneuver Vehicle constellations
  • Identification and surveillance of space objects
  • Space asset escorting

An SMV is envisioned to dwell on-orbit for up to one year. Its small size and ability to shift orbital inclination and altitude would allow repositioning for tactical advantage or geographic sensor coverage. Interchangeable SMV payloads would permit a wide variety of missions. SMV would use low-risk subsystem components and technology for aircraft-like operability and reliability.

An operational SMV might include:

  • Up to 1,200 pounds of sensors/payload
  • 72-hours or less turnaround time between missions
  • Up to 12 month on-orbit mission duration
  • Rapid recall from orbit
  • Up to 10,000 feet per second on-orbit velocity change for maneuvering

The Operationally Responsive Spacelift MNS references the SMV as part of the Military Spaceplane system that could meet the DoD's future needs for low cost, responsive spacelift.

Technology required for a SMV or similar reusable space vehicle was being developed under the NASA X-37 program and by the Air Force Research Laboratory. These technologies include advanced Thermal Protection Systems, lightweight composite structures, autonomous flight controls, and highly operable/reusable rocket engines. Reusable upper stage rocket engines are considered a technology unique to the SMV, whereas the other technologies apply to a NASA and a DoD reusable launch vehicle, therefore, the majority of SMV technology funding is being focused on reusable engines.

The Space Maneuver Vehicle Program is directed by the Air Force Research Laboratory's Military Spaceplane Technology Office at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. A three phase program was planned to provide affordable technology and operations demonstrations. The program was initially funded through Phase I. The schedule for Phases II and III depended on additional Air Force funding.

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Page last modified: 21-07-2011 00:47:45 ZULU