Army nanosatellites launched for communications mission

Army nanosatellites launched for communications mission

From the United Launch Alliance:

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama -- Three U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command nanosatellites were on board an Atlas V rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., today at 5:49 a.m. Pacific Daylight Savings Time.

The mission objectives for the nanosatellites are to successfully demonstrate beyond-line-of-sight voice and data relay, and data exfiltration of unattended ground sensors. Other supporting technologies such as encryption and propulsion will also be demonstrated.

The nanosatellites are part of the USASMDC/ARSTRAT Nanosatellite Program (SNaP), a Joint Capabilities Technology Demonstration. JCTD's examine the military utility and provides an assessment of a new technology to clearly establish its operational utility and system integrity. The demonstration introduces operational concepts utilizing this new technology to solve important military problems and facilitates technology transition.

The SNaP JCTD is designed to reduce tactical surprise and achieve overmatch at the squad level by demonstrating operational prototype nanosatellites that enable mission command on the move and allow tactical leaders to synchronize action, seize the initiative and maintain situational awareness.

Each SNaP nanosatellie consists of three approximately 10 centimeter cubes stacked for a length a little more than 30 centimeters and a weight of 5.5 kilograms. Each nanosatellite has four deployable solar panels and four deployable RF antennas.

After being released from the main rocket body, the three SNaP satellites will be diagnosed for the next 20 days for status and functionality. Ground stations at USASMDC/ARSTRAT will track and monitor the satellites during orbits.

SMDC's Concepts Analysis Laboratory, or CAL, will assist with contacting and tracking the satellites. Initial contact attempts will occur a few hours after launch.

The SNaP program is part of a continuing evolution of Army nanosatellite capabilities that started with the first SMDC-ONE nanosatellite launch in December 2010, followed by the launch of additional SMDC-ONE nanosatellites in September 2012 and December 2013.