Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Malfunctioning component delays satellite launch

By Michael Kleiman. 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFMCNS) — Officials are delaying the launch of Tactical Satellite-3 – which was scheduled to occur later in January – until repairs to a spacecraft avionics component, critical to the system’s operational capability, are complete.

The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate here administers the satellite program, known as TacSat-3. The program team is working with the manufacturer to resolve the problem.

“We’re very disappointed in the delay, but the fix is necessary to assure the on-orbit performance of the satellite,” said Thom Davis, TacSat-3 program manager. “Had we not discovered and corrected this problem, we would have had a potential catastrophic mission failure.”

The satellite originated five years ago to address military requirements for responsible, flexible, and affordable spacecraft operating in the cosmos. It consists of three pioneering experiments: the Raytheon Company-constructed Advanced Responsive Tactically Effective Military Imaging Spectrometer hyperspectral imager; the Office of Naval Research’s Satellite Communications Package; and AFRL’s Space Avionics Experiment. The trio of payloads will offer real-time imagery (within 10 minutes of collection), sea-based information transmitted from ocean buoys and plug-and-play avionics to support the warfighter in keeping one step ahead of the adversary.

Project partners include AFRL’s Sensors Directorate, NASA, the Department of Defense’s Operationally Responsive Space office, the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Development and Test Wing, Army Space and Missile Defense Command, Air Force Space Command, the Office of Naval Research, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

When ready, TacSat-3’s launch will occur at NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility in Wallops Island. Va.