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TacSat / Joint Warfighting Space (JWS)

TacSat-3 (JWS D-2)
Near Real Time Tactical Military
Prototype RECSAT

© C. P. Vick 2009 All Rights Reserved


TacSat-3 Becomes Operational

TacSat-3 become an operational imaging spacecraft for the war fighter on May 12, 2010 after completing a highly successful experiment mission demonstration for the Operational Responsive Space (ORS) for the US military in the field. It is now under the control of the US Space Command.

Further developments in June 2010 revealed that the DoD requested a reprogramming of $3.9 billion appropriation for priority USAF (ORS) and other satellite programs to assure it get done on time. The ORS-1 program requested 15.7 million to be redirected for this effort to assured launch in November 2010 or the ORS-1 satellite with the TacSat-3 already operational well before May 2010.


Tac-Sat-3 (JWS D-2) was finally launched May 19, 2009 . It had previously been planned for launch in summer 2007, the TacSat-3 satellite; the collaborative effort features an onboard processor that provides real-time data to the combatant commander in the theater. TacSat-3 is a team effort. Partners include the Air Force Research Laboratory's Space Vehicles Directorate, Army Space and Missile Defense Command, Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center 's Space Development and Test Wing, the Department of Defense's operations response space (ORS) office, and the Office of Naval Research.

Originating in 2004 as part of the Responsive Space initiative, which addressed the military's need for responsive, flexible and affordable systems operating in space, the satellite will consist of three distinct payloads: the ARTEMIS hyper spectral imager (HSI); the Ocean Data Telemetry Micro satellite Link (ODTML); and the Space Avionics Experiment (SAE). Serving as the mission's primary experiment, the hyper spectral imager, developed by Raytheon Company, will rapidly supply target detection and identification data, as well as initial preparation of the battlefield (disturbed earth) and battle damage assessment information requirements. In addition, a secondary payload provided by the Office of Naval Research will communicate information quickly to the war fighter.

The Ocean Data Telemetry Micro satellite Link will collect data from sea-based buoys and then transmit the information to a ground station. The SAE, designed and advanced at the Space Vehicles Directorate, will involve integrating the payload and spacecraft structure employing re programmable components.

Through the work of the DOD's Office of Force Transformation, the small satellite, weighing less than 880 pounds, will include a standardized modular bus, which will be tested for its adaptability for use on future TacSat missions. The payload mass and dimensions precisely fit the payload capacity of the USAF X-37B un crewed space plane payload capacity.

The idea for responsive space came out of the requirements addressed by Air Force senior leaders that the combatant commander needed the ability to replenish and quickly augment current on-orbit capabilities. As a result of this need, the demonstrations featured on TacSat-3 will allow us to fly over the area of interest and provide the war fighter with real-time data.

The $60 million program has accomplished all key milestones by March 2006. By early 2007, all three payloads will be moved to the Space Vehicles Directorate's Aerospace Engineering Facility for integration with modular bus and system-level testing. While this process typically takes several months, the TacSat-3 program's goal is to complete all activities within 60 days. The satellite will then be shipped to the launch site and mated with the launch vehicle, which, at that point, had not been determined.






Tac-Sat-3 (JWS D-2) Launched May 19, 2009

In addition, the three payloads were integrated and tested at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate, Kirtland AFB, N. M. All systems level performance tests have also been completed and space qualification evaluations, including random vibration and thermal vacuum testing, have been successfully accomplished. Final checkout of flight software has been completed, and the spacecraft was sent to the Wallops Island, Va., lift off site where it was mated with the Minotaur-I launch vehicle.

As a key team member in the TacSat-3 program, the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Development and Test Wing, also located at Kirtland AFB, N. M., provided the Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Minotaur-I launch vehicle. The four-stage rocket consists of two stages taken from retired Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles, and another two stages from Orbital’s Pegasus booster.

 Launch was from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport located at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va. In addition to fulfilling this significant role, SMC’s Space Development and Test Wing assisted with mission operations during TacSat-3’s planned, one-year flight in Low Earth Orbit at approximately 425 kilometers (264 miles) altitude.

 TacSat-3 Responsive Space Modular Bus

 The responsive Space Modular Bus developed by ATK [Alliant Tech systems] for the TacSat-3 spacecraft. It was successfully launched May 19, 2009 from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility Wallops Island, Virginia, for its twelve month demonstration hyper spectral imaging mission in support of the U. S. war fighters.

The ATK designed and built spacecraft bus meets the TacSat program's goals of being operationally responsive, low-cost and high performance. ATK hardware includes the onboard command and data handling system, solar arrays, primary structure and interfaces to the launch vehicle and payload. ATK's innovative hexapetal bus design enables rapid integration and modular packaging of both bus and payload components - an enabling capability for future Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) missions that must meet a seven-day call-up requirement.

"ATK's Responsive Space Modular Bus was utilized for TacSat-3 in order to provide a highly-capable spacecraft that was versatile enough to support this specific mission, while flexible enough to support a broad range of future ORS missions," according to Blake Larson, president, ATK Space Systems. "ATK completed the critical design review within four months of program start, integrated the bus structure within 11 months, and delivered the bus to the customer in just over 15 months."

Other innovative features of the ATK spacecraft design include the adoption of Integrated Systems Engineering Team standard interfaces, that were developed in parallel by a joint government-industry team of engineers; an agile three-axis stabilization system to enable payload sensors to collect precision data on-orbit and downlink processed information in the same orbit pass; a robust power capability with modular power options that can be tailored for specific mission requirements; and a high-strength structure with adaptable interfaces to support a variety of sensor payloads.

ATK also supplied the Orion 50XL and Orion 38 solid rocket motors for Orbital Sciences Corporation, which performed flawlessly as the Minotaur's third and fourth stages, respectively. The motors are manufactured at ATK's Magna , Utah , facility. ATK also provided the Minotaur's carbon fiber composite payload fairing assemblies to protect the TacSat-3 during launch. The fairing's separated approximately 140 seconds into the flight.

"ATK played an integral role in this launch, from the solid rocket motors of the launch to the launch vehicle fairing and finally the spacecraft bus," said Larson.

The TacSat-3 spacecraft is a pioneer of the emerging ORS program. It was designed to meet the growing need of U.S. forces for flexible, affordable and responsive satellite systems.

TacSat-3 Mission Objectives

TacSat-3 has demonstrated

  • Hyper spectral imaging products – Rapid response to a user-defined need for target detection and identification
  • Next-generation plug-and-play capability – Rapid development of the space vehicle — integrated payload and spacecraft bus — using components and processes developed by the Operationally Responsive Space Modular Bus Program
  • Rapid launch within days from alert status – Rapid deployment from alert status for launch to theater control (within seven days projected)
  • Responsive theater communications – Responsive delivery of decision-quality information to operational and tactical commanders by enabling tactical tasking and data delivery
  • Low-cost implementation of an objective system – Deliver field able capability within reasonable cost constraints.








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Page last modified: 21-07-2011 00:49:03 ZULU