Print 11 comment(s) - last by smdcpa.. on Jul 3 at 11:10 AM

The U.S. Army looks towards the future and has big plans for its own satellite launches

After a 50-year hiatus from launching its own satellites, the United States Army plans to build and launch miniature communications satellites.

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 contractor.  

Army officials expect to launch all eight cubesats together, on a Falcon or Minotaur rocket.  

It is unknown when the government would begin construction on the satellites, or when they will be launched into orbit.

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Clarifications and corrections
By smdcpa on 6/17/2008 1:53:57 PM , Rating: 5
I’m with the Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) public affairs office and we noticed that this blog entry requires some clarifications and corrections:
- The Army is not launching the satellites, like we did in the 1950s. We’re working on a small satellite initiative to build the satellites and the ORS program office at Kirtland AFB will obtain the launch vehicle. The Army does not have any launch vehicles.
- The small satellite initiative is not officially part of the ORS program yet. It is an approximately $5 million demonstrator program. The overall ORS program budget is much more than $5 million.
- The small satellite initiative is not the direct result of any Congressional initiative or “push” by Congress. It is an initiative that SMDC undertook to meet a specific warfighter need that we saw we could support and meet and we wanted to use the opportunity as a demonstrator to build the satellites within a 9-month timeframe and provide to the ORS program office for launch.
- The Army Explorer I program was the Army’s first satellite launch and it was in 1957; not 1946.
- The small satellites we are building are 30x10x10 centimeters and weigh approximately 10 pounds each (approximately 5 kilograms).
- Currently, our SMDC Army engineers do not have the proper knowledge and expertise to build the satellites. They will work with the contractor, MilTec, which will build the first eight satellites while our engineers work with them and learn. Then our Army engineers will build the last two satellites.
- The contractor, Miltec, is constructing the satellites now.

Andy Roake
US Army Space and Missile Defense Command Public Affairs

RE: Clarifications and corrections
By Bladen on 6/18/2008 7:36:14 AM , Rating: 1
I doubt the US army makes comments like this.

As a by the way comment, I find it interesting that the last two satellites will built by the army only.

RE: Clarifications and corrections
By omnicronx on 6/18/2008 11:07:59 AM , Rating: 2
I doubt the US army makes comments like this.

Could be, if you look up his name you will find that he is a 'spokesman for Air Force Space Command'. Whether or not he actually took the time to post on DT is another issue entirely ;)

By CascadingDarkness on 6/18/2008 4:43:17 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sure it's possible for Kris to reference the posting IP address to see if it's in a common government address range. That is, if he's as curious as me.

RE: Clarifications and corrections
By Bladen on 6/18/2008 4:57:01 PM , Rating: 2
Does the Air Force and Army share spokesmen?

RE: Clarifications and corrections
By smdcpa on 7/3/2008 11:10:39 AM , Rating: 2
I'm an Army civilian and an AF Reservist working Public Affairs in both jobs. We just want to ensure the facts about our programs are correct.

Andy Roake
US Army Space and Missile Defense Command

By Bremen7000 on 6/22/2008 1:18:34 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks for posting some facts. I think everyone who's a regular reader here already knows that the "blogs aren't news, [so we won't bother doing any fact-checking aligning with reality, or even grammar checking, cuz it's just a blog]." DT should just nuke the whole Blogs section, it drags down the reputation for the News section by association.

By DangerMouseNZ1 on 6/15/2008 4:23:43 PM , Rating: 2
I'm no space expert, but the US didn't launch a satellite into orbit until the late 1950s, not 1946. After a quick Google search I found the following: "Eighty-four days later, on 31 January 1958, the Army Ballistic Missile Agency launched the first U.S. satellite—Explorer I—into orbit."

RE: 1946?
By Thrasherlife on 6/15/2008 8:25:55 PM , Rating: 3
looks like the first radar contact with the moon was 1946 but had nothing to do with satellites.

RE: 1946?
By kfonda on 6/16/2008 7:21:32 PM , Rating: 2
If you want to see a picture of the dishes used to do this check out this link.

I worked at Camp Evans for many years starting in 1982 and had the honor of working with some of the people that were involved with that project as well as some people who were involved with the Manhattan project. The stories they told and the pictures they had were fascinating.

Camp Evans has an incredible history, It was the site of of the Marconi Belmar Wireless Station which was involved with the early trans-atlantic wireless transmissions, the camp played a key role in the development of the radars used during World War II. It was even involved with a major spy scandal, Sen. Joe McCarthy 'interviewed' many people there during the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg spy case.

The camp was saved by the Infoage volunteers after the BRAC commission closed it down. Now part of the camp is open as a museum. Even one of the Diana dishes is still there.

If you are interested in this kind of thing check out the homepage.

RE: 1946?
By BernardP on 6/16/2008 8:21:52 AM , Rating: 2
You got that right. Explorer I was the first US satellite, launching after Sputnik, the first artificial satellite(4 oct 1957)

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