As part of the $5 million Operationally Responsive Space program, engineers met
in March to begin drafting the most logical methods of satellite deployments
for the military.
The program was started in May 2007 after Congress wanted the Army to
reconsider its plans for the future of satellite construction and
launches. Most military satellite launches are done by either the Air
Force and Navy.
When the U.S. military first began launching communications satellites into
orbit, starting in 1946, the Army had its hand in a number of early launch
successes. The Army was the first branch to have radar contact with the
moon, which took place in 1946.
This latest push by Congress is "a pathfinder project to fulfill an urgent
need for beyond line of sight communications capabilities," said Space and
Missile Defense chief of strategy James Lee.
The "cubesats" typically measure about 30 inches wide and weigh just
five pounds, but will give Army ground troops proper communications in regions
of the world where no secure satellite communications have been arranged.
In some parts of Africa, for example, the Army must rely on third-party
contractors and commercial vendors for communication uplinks.
"We feel it's important to have experience at an engineering level to
build space capabilities, even if it's as simple as a cubesat," Lee said.
Engineers will work with a company called MilTec for the first six satellites,
with the Space and Missile Defense Command having full construction for the
remaining two satellites. The Army is working with MilTec for the first
few satellites because while Army engineers have the proper knowledge and
expertise, they lack hands-on experience they will gain working with a
Army officials expect to launch all eight cubesats together, on a Falcon or
It is unknown when the government would begin construction on the satellites,
or when they will be launched into orbit.