First small, tactical satellite set for January launch

First small, tactical satellite set for January launch

In keeping with his military philosophy of 'the small, the fast and the many,' Pentagon force transformation chief Arthur K. Cebrowski is promoting what he calls operationally responsive space systems to decentralize command and control.

ORS systems would have distributed tiers of micro-satellites, launched on demand from low-cost vehicles and using common data buses. They would support joint military deployments.

The Defense Department estimates that the first TacSat-1 satellites will cost less than $15 million a piece to build and launch.

An initial model, built jointly by the Navy and Air Force research labs, will go up in January from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., said Rob Holzer, spokesman for DOD's Office of Force Transformation. Regional commanders in the Pacific Command will test the satellite.

TacSat-1 uses existing commercial components developed for unmanned aerial vehicles. The payload includes infrared and visible imaging sensors and other mission-specific sensors, with tactical control via the Secret IP Router Network.

Each satellite is supposed to geolocate itself by direct communications with other air and space assets, such as Global Positioning System satellites.

During the TacSat-2 phase envisioned by Cebrowski, Defense would refine the micro-satellite concept and eventually create a test bed for national security.

A joint task force commander could request a specific payload and time and area for downlinking results; a separate launch team would manage the payload, orbit and range clearance.

Holzer said SpaceX of El Segundo, Calif., is building the initial 68-foot launch rocket. The first stage is designed to be recovered from the ocean and reused.

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