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.


 
 

 

Headlines March 30, 2015

News: Pentagon chief mulls easing military enlistment standards - Defense Secretary Ash Carter is considering easing some military enlistment standards as part of a broader set of initiatives to better attract and keep quality service members and civilians across the Defense Department.   Business: Lockheed pays $2 million to settle government overbilling charges - Lockheed Martin Corpor...
 
 

News Briefs March 30, 2015

Landing mishap for military chopper; two aboard unhurt Two Navy officers were unhurt after their helicopter rolled on its side while landing in the Florida Panhandle. The mishap happened the night of March 27 at a Navy landing site in Pensacola, Fla. The Pensacola News Journal reports a pilot instructor and a student were able...
 
 
Air Force photograph by TSgt. Matt Hecht

Laser-based aircraft countermeasure provides ‘unlimited rounds’ against MANPADS

Air Force photograph by TSgt. Matt Hecht A U.S. Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopter prepares to depart Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, on Jan 7, 2012. The Apache conducts distributed operations, precision strikes against relocat...
 

 

Navy, Air Force advocate for modernizing combat aviation

Top Navy and Air Force officials today told the House Armed Services subcommittee on tactical air and land forces the president’s budget request for fiscal year 2016 will support modernizing combat aviation programs. Cavy Vice Adm. Paul A. Grosklags, principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisitions; Air...
 
 

Raytheon wins $46 million contract for South Korean Global Hawk ground stations

Raytheon has been awarded a contract valued at up to $45.7 million by Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems for ground segments in support of four Global Hawk unmanned aircraft systems recently purchased by the Republic of Korea. Under this contract, Raytheon will deliver one building-based and one mobile ground segment to locations in South Korea. Work...
 
 
Air Force photograph by SrA. Victor J. Caputo

McConnell community marks B-29 rollout

Air Force photograph by SrA. Victor J. Caputo A B-29 Superfortress aircraft, named Doc after its nose art, sit on the flightline March 23, 2015, in Wichita, Kan. Doc will be one of two Superfortresses in the world capable of fl...
 




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=""> <strike> <strong>