Space Force launches experimental payloads into orbit


WASHINGTON – The US Space Force launched a host of experimental payloads into orbit with a NASA satellite on December 7 as part of the space testing program.

Nine Space Force payloads selected by the Department of Defense’s Space Experiment Review Board have been incorporated into the Space Test Program-6, or STPSat-6, satellite.

The primary payload was the Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration’s Atmospheric Burst Reporting System, designed to improve the ability to detect nuclear detonations. NASA’s laser communications relay demo payload, designed to demonstrate laser communications for the civilian space agency, was also on board.

While not all payloads have been identified, the Space Force said they cover a plethora of capabilities, including space domain knowledge, weather and more. Northrop Grumman acted as the prime contractor for the spacecraft.

STPSat-6 was launched from the Cape Canaveral space station on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Originally slated for a December 5 launch, the mission was postponed due to a fuel leak in ground equipment.

“The successful launch and acquisition of STP-3 is a remarkable achievement for the entire team,” said Col. Brian Denaro, head of the space development program, in a statement. “This mission advances the objectives of military and civilian experimentation by demonstrating next generation space technologies in nuclear detonation detection, spatial situational awareness, weather and communication by providing critical data needed to reduce risk for future space programs. It is the perfect example of how SSC is working together to bring exciting new space capabilities to the Space Force, our mission partners and the fighters we support. “

The launch mission also put the Space Force’s long-range propulsion spacecraft ESPA (LDPE) -1 into orbit. This is the first of multiple planned LDPE missions, and it uses a modular configuration that allows it to house multiple experimental payloads and prototypes in geosynchronous orbit.

Space Force refers to the system as a “freight train to space”. The program is overseen by the Rapid Development Division of Space Systems Command within the Development Corps. LPDE-1 payloads are equipped with space domain knowledge, communications and space weather detection capabilities.

Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.


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