Defense

December 6, 2013

Vandenberg AFB launch propels nanosatellite into space

Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service 

An Atlas V rocket launched Dec. 5 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., carried a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored nanosatellite into space – and with it, the potential for more reliable and less expensive communications for troops around the world.

The nanosatellite, about the size of a loaf of bread and weighing just 11 pounds, piggybacked during the launch on a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office headquartered in Chantilly, Va., SOUTHCOM officials said.

That small package carries big hopes for SOUTHCOM, which spearheaded the demonstration project to help overcome communications challenges in the vast mountainous and densely forested terrain within Latin America, Juan Hurtado, the SOUTHCOM’s science and technology adviser, told American Forces Press Service during an interview from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

As envisioned, troops on the ground will be able to tap the new technology directly from their field radios. And when the satellite moves beyond the part of the globe beyond SOUTHCOM’s area of responsibility, it could provide that same capability to other combatant commands as well, Hurtado said.

“This is a major milestone,” he said. “This first space project for U.S. Southern Command represents a big step ahead. I feel like we are about ready to offer a transformational capability to support troops in the field, not just within Southern Command, but throughout the Department of Defense.”

“This is just an evaluation, but we think this space capability could help improve communication during various operations,” said Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly, SOUTHCOM’s commander.

If the initial phase of the demonstration goes as hoped, two additional nanosatellites will launch next December, Hurtado reported.

All three will be set to a low-earth orbit, operating as one component of a communications suite to include a ground station, ground sensors and tactical radios, he explained. Collectively, they will support information-sharing and tactical communications over wide geographic expanses.

The development and deployment of the nanosatellites represent the strength of partnerships at several levels, Hurtado said.

U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command oversaw its development, and the Defense Department funded it through its Joint Capability Technology Demonstration effort. Cadre and students at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School will help SOUTHCOM assess the technology’s operational value.

In addition, SOUTHCOM’s counterparts in Brazil and Peru will help evaluate its performance. Hurtado is headed to both countries next week to discuss details about how the three countries will work together during the demonstration.

Kelly called the investment in nanosatellites “an opportunity for us to collaborate from the ground up with partner nations who are looking to develop this capability for a variety of security and commercial uses.”

The initial concept for the nanosatellite originated through close collaboration among the Secretary of Defense’s Rapid Fielding Directorate, Army Space and Missile Defense Command and SOUTHCOM’s science, technology and experimentation office.

Since it was stood up in 2002, the SOUTHCOM office has helped to identify technical capabilities to support the command’s mission, and lacking them, helped to develop new ones, Hurtado said. Its staff takes gaps and requirements as identified by U.S. forces and partner nations in the theater, converts them into technical requirements, then looks initially to the DOD technical technology community for solutions.

The original objective – “to find ways to do things better or do things cheaper” – is even more pressing in today’s fiscal environment, Hurtado noted.

The new nanosatellite offers promise on both counts. It cost $500,000 to build, far less than larger satellites, and its small size makes launching it into space relatively inexpensive. Both factors could make it feasible to deploy several nanosatellites as needed to expand communication coverage to ground forces in support of an array of mission requirements, including humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations, Hurtado said.

He emphasized however, that last night’s launch is just the start of a long evaluation process ahead. The first of two evaluations, planned for May, will take three months to complete. A final evaluation scheduled for February 2015 will span five months using all three satellites.

“Recognizing that, I feel extremely proud of this effort and the potential capability it stands to offer for our forces,” Hurtado said. “This will make communications not only less expensive, but more readily available.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Hurricane Hunters to fly Tropical Storm Erika

The Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters are operating out of Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., flying their state-of-the-art WC-130J Super Hercules into Tropical Storm Erika in support of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron flew four missions into the tropical storm from their deployed location at St. Croix in the...
 
 

Pentagon probing alleged distorting of war intelligence

The Pentagon’s inspector general is investigating an allegation that the military command overseeing the anti-Islamic State campaign distorted or altered intelligence assessments to exaggerate progress against the militant group, a defense official said Aug. 26. The official was not authorized to discuss the probe publicly and so spoke on condition of anonymity. The investigation was...
 
 
LM-C130

U.S. Air Force receives additional MC-130J Commando II

MARIETTA, Ga., Aug. 27, 2015 – A crew from the U.S. Air Force Aug. 27 ferried a new MC-130J Commando II aircraft assigned to Air Force Special Operations Command to Cannon Air Force Base, N.., from the Lockheed Martin facilit...
 

 
af-uav4

Arming the RPAs

Air Force photograph by TSgt. Joseph Swafford A1C Matthew Lopez (center), 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron munitions systems technician, builds a GPS-guided GBU-49 bomb at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Aug. 15, 2015...
 
 
dragon-lady1

Local efforts help keep Dragon Lady flying at 60

Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings A U-2 Dragon Lady soars above the flightline at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014. The low-altitude handling characteristics of the aircraft and bicycle-type lan...
 
 
Air Force photograph

U.S. Navy awards production contract for additional P-8A aircraft, first RAAF planes

Air Force photograph A P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft parked on the tarmac during a BALTOPS 2015 mission on the flightline of Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, June 9, 2015. The U.S. Navy awarded a nearl...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>