Tuesday, March 13, 2007

USAF satellite-loaded Atlas V is 50th launch success

The Air Force marked its 50th consecutive successful launch March 8 with an Atlas V loaded with six experimental satellites.

Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles AFB, Calif., successfully launched the rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., with the 45th Space Wing spacelift team.

The mission integration and subsequent launch was a collaborative effort on the part of the Air Force, the Aerospace Corporation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Department of Energy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, the United Launch Alliance and contractors including the Boeing Company, Ball Aerospace, and AeroAstro.

The firsts on this mission include:
-- The first launch of an Air Force payload on an Atlas V
-- The first flight of an EELV Secondary Payload Adaptor
-- The first Air Force mission with six unique spacecraft
-- The first dedicated EELV mission for the Department of Defense Space Test Program
-- The first Atlas V mission to carry multiple satellites to two distinctly different low-Earth orbits.

"I am just overwhelmed and ecstatic by the results of last night's launch" said." Lt. Col. Carol Welsch, director of the DOD Space Test Program and Space Development Group, SMC. "The separation systems on the ESPA ring worked flawlessly allowing the satellites to deploy nominally. I don't believe the flight to the designated mission orbits could have gone any better than it did."

This was the ninth launch of the Atlas V rocket that plays an important role in assured access to space.

"I congratulate the members of the Space Test Program, DARPA, and United Launch Alliance team on their successful mission accomplishment last evening," said Col. Samuel Greaves, STP-1 mission director. I am proud to be a part of the success of this mission and I look forward to supporting future launches that show the same degree of dedication to mission success. Well done!"

"This is an exciting and historic day for the Air Force and our government/industry EELV launch team," said Col. David Thompson, commander of the 45th Operations Group and spacelift commander for this mission. "This is our ninth straight successful Atlas V launch. It helps mark the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force because it's another chapter in the long Atlas heritage that began back in the 1950s when the Air Force initially developed the Atlas as an intercontinental ballistic missile."

The individual spacecraft launched on the Atlas V were:

-- NextSat and ASTRO for the Defense Advanced Projects Agency:
These satellites are part of a program called Orbital Express. They will spend the next three months in orbit, demonstrating for the first time fully autonomous rendezvous and capture of client spacecraft, satellite-to-satellite refueling, and replacement of battery and flight-computer orbital replacement units. The technologies developed by DARPA's Orbital Express program are intended to support a broad range of future U.S. national security, civil and commercial space activities.

1 30772U 07006A 07071.21013879 .00002142 00000-0 10000-3 0 93
2 30772 46.0304 87.3377 0005626 283.7025 76.3986 15.23673385 472

1 30774U 07006C 07070.55446384 .00000814 00000-0 45657-4 0 59
2 30774 46.0298 90.8357 0005618 281.0480 78.9786 15.23666884 371

-- STPSat-1 for the Space Test Program: This microsatellite was built to specifically exploit the new ESPA multi-mission launch capability. It supports STP's mission to provide reliable access to space for DoD-sponsored experiments. STPsat-1: A 343-pound (156-kilogram) satellite carrying two experiments to collect atmospheric data and demonstrate spacecraft technologies for the U.S. Air Force’s Space Test Program. This satellite carries an interesting experiment (CITRIS) which will monitor spacecraft beacons on the following frequencies: 150.012, 400.032 and 1066.752 MHz. It is NOT transmitting a downlink on these frequencies as one source has reported.

-- CFESat for the Los Alamos National Laboratory: The Cibola Flight Experiment is a technology pathfinder project for the National Nuclear Security Administration's Office of Research and Development. It is flying eight new technologies for space flight validation. It is a 350-pound (159-kilogram) satellite built for the Los Alamos National Laboratory to test a series of new technologies, including inflatable boom antennas, a new power supply and a prototype supercomputer designed to process data onboard rather than sending raw information directly to Earth

CFESat is a reconfigurable processor payload mission of LANL (Los Alamos National Laboratory) intended for a low-Earth orbit system. The objective is to survey portions of the VHF and UHF radio spectra. The experiment uses networks of reprogrammable, field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) to process the received signals for ionospheric and lightning studies. The objective is to detect and measure impulse events that occur in a complex background. The experiment also will validate the on-orbit use of commercial, reconfigurable FPGA technology demonstrating several different schemes for the mitigation and correction of "single-event upsets" that would crash most current computer systems. CFESat is supported by STP (Space Test Program) of DoD and is part of the STP-1 space flight mission.

CFESat employs two SSDRs (Solid State Data Recorder), each of 1 GByte capacity. A new router system is used to collect the downlink as well as the uplink data. All data transfer is provided in S-band with CPFSK (Continuous Phase Frequency Shift Keying) modulation and a data rate of 19.2 kbit/s in uplink. The downlink has data rates of 38.4 kbit/s or of 4 Mbit/s using QPSK (Quadra-Phase Shift Keying) modulation.

-- MidSTAR for the U.S. Naval Academy: It is a general-purpose satellite bus carrying four experiments. MidSTAR-1 is the first implementation of the mod 1 design. It has been commissioned by STP to carry the Internet Communications Satellite (ICSat) Experiment for SSP (no. 39 on the 2002 SERB List) and the Configurable Fault Tolerant Processor (CFTP) Experiment for NPS (no. 34 on the 2002 SERB List). Uplink 1.767 GHz and downlink 2.20226 GHz using Gaussian Mean Shift Key modulation (68.4 kbit/s or better data rate)

1 30773U 07006B 07071.21127939 -.00000229 00000-0 28920-5 0 83
2 30773 46.0286 87.3624 0003260 285.0857 74.9644 15.23096508 478

-- FalconSat-3 for the U.S. Air Force Academy is a 119-pound (54-kilogram) satellite. It is a general purpose satellite bus carrying three experiments. FS-3’s mission is to collect data from its experiments and provide cadets in the Space Operations major an actual space ops experience. Additionally Astronautics major cadets will analyze telemetry and make operations decisions. FS-3 will perform its primary mission on DOD frequencies with a downlink at 2.220 GHz.

Modulation is GMSK at 38k4 or 76k8 bps. All transmissions are in the clear and are AX.25. Additionally FS-3 carries an Amateur radio transmitter and receiver with a downlink at 435.100 Mhz. Modulation is GMSK at 9k6 with faster bit rates available. The Amateur uplink is in VHF and the frequency will be made available when FS-3 reverts to Amateur mode.

After the primary science mission is completed the satellite will be transferred to the USAFA Amateur Radio Club and operated as an Amateur satellite. It can function much like AO-51 in either an FM voice or digital store and forward configurations. During the first few weeks on orbit FS-3 will be commissioned, which includes uploading software and testing all functions. During that time the Amateur radio payload will be exercised.

The primary avionics in FS-3 are from SpaceQuest with additional modules built by cadets and faculty at USAFA and contractors. Software modules are from BekTek, SSTL, and Colorado Satellite Services, with additional software by cadets and faculty at USAFA. The satellite is ‘ESPA class’. The basic structure is a cube about 24” on a side. There is a 3 meter gravity gradient boom that will be extended from the ‘top’ on orbit. On the ‘bottom’ are the pulse plasma thrusters and various antennas including an array of S band patch antennas provided by S&L Technologies of Orlando along with omni antennas for S, V and U bands.

The USAFA ground station consists of two complete units with individual masts on the roof of the classroom annex building. antennas include 6’ and 10’ dishes and Yagis. Rotators are the heavy duty MT-3000 and MT-1000 from M2.