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eNewsletter December 2006

MicroSatellite Successfully Launched for U.S. Air Force

This past Saturday, Dec. 16, 2006, TacSat-2 became the first small “responsive space” military demonstration “tactical” satellite to be sent into orbit when it was launched onboard a Minotaur I rocket from NASA’s Wallops Island, Va. facility. Developed by MicroSat Systems (Littleton, Colo.), it will help refine paradigms for tactically significant, quick-delivery one-meter resolution military imaging intelligence.

“Responsive space” enterprises endeavor to deploy small, lower-cost satellites that can be designed, built and tested within a 15-month time-frame and launched within one week of storage call-up. MicroSat built the satellite bus, the primary Gallium Arsenide (GaGs) solar arrays and the experimental deployable thin-film solar arrays (which is a low mass, low stowage volume solution for small satellite missions) for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate. The AFRL is partnering with the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program and with several other military offices to test responsive space concepts.

TacSat-2 features 11 onboard experiments, which will be conducted during the spacecraft’s planned six to 12-month mission. These include high resolution visible imagery, direct theater payload tasking and high-speed data downlink, autonomous on-orbit checkout and operations, and dynamic re-tasking based on internal/external cueing. MSI will support the initial spacecraft checkout before operations are completely turned over to AFRL. Subcontractors to the company include Broad Reach Engineering and Advanced Solutions, Inc.

In a panel discussion focused on small business at the Dec. 14 Colorado Aerospace Roundup (organized by the Colorado Space Business Roundtable), MicroSat President John Roth called the launch his career high point. Entrepreneurs joining Roth for the panel discussion included moderator Scott Tibbitts, managing director of SpaceDev; Mark Bailey, director of marketing for Starsys Inc. (aerospace electromechanical subsystems); Eric Anderson, vice president of SEAKR Engineering Inc. (memory systems); and Chris McCormick, chief executive officer for Broad Reach Engineering (hardware and vehicle design). The panelists fielded questions about the role that Small Business Innovation Research grants can play in a company’s evolution, and the myriad communications and business issues that can arise when small firms team up with giant prime aerospace contractors.

Details were shared about two new major partnerships: the United Launch Alliance between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which aims to guarantee access to space by combining Atlas 5 and Delta 2/4 expendable launch systems on two coasts; and the Orion project, a Lockheed Martin-Stellar Solutions collaboration for development of a crew exploration vehicle and other equipment to replace existing space shuttles to the Space Station and to provide a “jumping off” point for return missions to the moon and, possibly, to Mars.

Also on hand were Republican Senator Wayne Allard, Chairman of the Space Power Caucus, and Democratic Congressman Mark Udall, member of the U.S. House Committee on Science, who asked roundup attendees to support his bid for chairmanship of the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics.

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