In the past 14 months, the organization experienced success with its initial satellite, ORS-1, transitioned for operational use to U.S. Central Command in January, approximately six months after launch.
It also funded the liftoff and first 180 days of flight of the experimental Tactical Satellite-4, slated for transfer to U.S. Strategic Command less than one year after reaching orbit.
Not resting on its laurels, the ORS Office has implemented an aggressive strategy in designing, developing, launching and operating low-cost, rapid-reaction spacecraft through the ORS-2, ORS-3 and ORS-4 programs.
“Although ORS-1′s and TacSat-4′s operational performance in providing joint force commanders with enhanced battlespace awareness has exceeded expectations, our team’s focus has remained on producing affordable and quickly assembled and launched (within days to a week after receiving the warfighter’s request) satellites,” said Dr. Peter Wegner, ORS Office director. “Our three current programs (ORS-2, ORS-3 and ORS-4), will make huge strides in rapid response becoming a reality.”
Currently, in the development stage, ORS-2 will consist of a modular, rapidly configurable bus employing plug-and-play technology, as well as radar and electronic tactical support payloads.
The satellite, with a projected $20 million mission cost, will operate in a 45-degree inclination orbit 311 miles above the Earth.
Much of the ORS-2 program schedule has yet to be determined, but delivery of the modular bus has been planned for summer 2012.
Like its predecessor, ORS-2 will provide enhanced battlespace awareness to the JFC during its planned one-year mission.
On the other hand, project specifics for ORS-3 have been decided. Planned to launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport located at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va., in August 2013, the satellite will feature a primary payload, the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Test Program Satellite-3 and 27 additional experiments comprised of free-flying systems and non-separating components. ORS-3 will employ CubeSat wafers, which enable secondary payloads to take advantage of excess lift capacity unavailable to the primary trial.
In addition, the third ORS mission, costing $27 million, will demonstrate launch vehicle flight safety architecture of the future through the Autonomous Flight Safety System payload, which uses launch vehicle orbital targeting and range safety planning processes to protect public safety from an errant launch vehicle during flight.
“I am really excited about the Autonomous Flight Safety System payload onboard ORS-3 because the apparatus will allow for real-time range safety calculations. For example, if the launch vehicle encounters an emergency immediately following liftoff, the AFSS will assist in immediately aborting the rocket, which ultimately prevents loss of life and property,” Wegner said. “Another unique aspect of ORS-3 is the 27 secondary experiments consisting of both separating (free-flying) and non-separating. Several universities and businesses have expressed interest in participating in the ORS-3 flight, which will use an integrated payload stack.”
Finally, the fourth ORS mission also has a definitive timetable with most pre-liftoff milestone dates established and the launch window no earlier than September 2013.
Using a three-stage sounding rocket known as Super Strypi will deliver to orbit an integrated payload stack of approximately 419 pounds, launched from the U.S Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sands, near Kekaha, Kauai County, Hawaii, and will operate in 97-degree orbit approximately 280 to 326 miles above the planet.
Like ORS-3, onboard payloads include the AFSS and CubeSat Wafers, which will accommodate an undetermined number of secondary experiments.
With a $10 to $12 million price tag, ORS-4 will function with decreased infrastructure comprised of the AFSS, global positioning system metric tracking, space-based telemetry relay, and automated flight planning.
“Since its inception in May 2007, the ORS Office has been committed 24/7/365 to providing space power focused on the timely satisfaction of Joint Force Commanders’ needs. Both ORS-1 and TacSat-4 have been resounding successes for us to build upon in achieving rapid, responsive and affordable space flight,” said Dr. Wegner. “I believe the next three ORS missions will enable us to accomplish that milestone. We are prepared to do so.”