Friday, December 10, 2010

Army nanosatellite on first flight

The U.S. Army logo is prominently positioned on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket the night before launch. The first Army-built satellite in more than 50 years, SMDC-ONE nanosatellite, is onboard the second stage directly behind the Army logo.

By John Cummings, SMDC/ARSTRAT

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- The first U.S. Army nanosatellite lifted off of Launch Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, Fla., today at 10:43 a.m. Eastern. This is the launch of the first U.S. Army-built satellite in more than 50 years. U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command is the Army lead for the SMDC-ONE nanosatellite program.

The Space and Missile Defense Command - Operational Nanosatellite Effect, or SMDC-ONE, launched on a Falcon 9 two-stage booster, a Space Exploration Technologies, Inc, or SpaceX, launch vehicle as a secondary payload. The primary payload for this flight is the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.

The primary objective of this maiden flight is to receive data from a ground transmitter and relay that data to a ground station. The intent of this technology demonstration is to build a number of identical satellites and deploy them together into Low Earth Orbit to simulate enhanced tactical communications capability and evaluate nanosat performance.

Approximately 45 minutes after launch, SMDC-ONE deployed from the Falcon 9 trunk unit located in the second stage of the rocket and was placed into a low earth orbit.

After being dormant for 30 minutes, the nanosatellite deployed its receiver antennas. Even though in a tumbling mode, the satellite contacted the ground station at USASMDC/ARSTRAT on Redstone Arsenal, Ala., and provided "state-of-health" data.

During orbits over the next four days contact with the second ground station in Colorado Springs, Colo., will be made during orbits.

After deployment, it is expected that SMDC-ONE will remain in orbit for approximately 30 days before dropping out of orbit. Because of its small size and weight, SMDC-ONE is expected to be destroyed during reentry in the atmosphere.