Boulder, Colorado. November 19, 2013. The Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. STPSat-3 satellite built for the Department of Defense and part of the Operationally Responsive Space-3 (ORS-3) mission, successfully launched from Wallops Island, VA, on board a Minotaur I at 8:15 p.m. EST.
STPSat-3 joins its predecessor, the Ball-built STPSat-2, which launched in 2010 on the same date. These satellites demonstrate the ability to rapidly access space by using standard interfaces on a standard spacecraft bus. Payloads are designed to be compatible with the spacecraft bus, resulting in lower spacecraft non-recurring costs, shorter acquisition timelines, decreased spacecraft build costs, and increased spaceflight opportunities.
“Standard interfaces allowed rapid satellite integration and test, and for the spacecraft bus to be built in 47 days independently of the payloads,” said Ball Aerospace President Rob Strain. “In less than a year, STPSat-3 was an integrated, fully-tested and ready-to-ship satellite with five payloads and a de-orbit module.”
Ball Aerospace has integrated the standard spacecraft bus used on STPSat-2 and STPSat-3 into its Ball Configurable Platform (BCP) product line to offer customers more affordable and responsive space missions.
One of the instruments onboard the satellite, the Total Solar Irradiance (TSI) Calibration Transfer Experiment (TCTE) is a sensor hosted for NOAA and NASA. The sensor, built by CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics will provide for continual calibration of the sun’s total energy input to the Earth, which affects Earth’s atmosphere and weather patterns.
“With very minor modifications and close collaboration with partners, the TCTE instrument was adapted for Ball’s flexible STPSat-3 spacecraft to provide critical weather information for the nation,” added Strain. “STPSat-3 was the perfect option to enable a quick ride to space and mitigated a possible total solar irradiance gap after the precursory TSI-measuring instrument experienced a launch failure in 2011.”
STPSat-3 is managed by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, Space Development & Test Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico as part of the Space Test Program, Standard Interface Vehicle (STP-SIV) program.
The ORS-3 Mission, also known as the Enabler Mission, will demonstrate launch and range improvements to include: automated vehicle trajectory targeting, range safety planning, and flight termination; employ a commercial-like procurement with FAA licensing of a Minotaur 1; and launch the Air Force’s Space Test Program Satellite-3 and 28 cubesats on an Integrated Payload Stack. These enablers not only focus on the ability to execute a rapid call up mission, they automate engineering tasks that once took months and reduce those timelines to days and/or hours resulting in decreased mission costs.