Nanosatellites use ground sensors to protect troops on the ground
January 9, 2013
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Members of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command used unattended ground sensors, coupled with Operationally Unique Technology Satellites, to simulate how they can protect troops in combat.
The OUTSat program coupled with two Army nanosatellites as part of the Army's continuance to provide low-cost, tactically responsive space capabilities through the use of small satellite technology helps detect changes on an ever-changing battlefield. The two nanosatellites, identified as "Able" and "Baker," were launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on an Atlas V launch vehicle Sept. 13.
"We are out here today to do a simulation of unattended ground sensors that are uplinked to our SMDC-One satellite and, in a time of war, they would be downlinked directly to a Soldier," said Cindy McCoy, USASMDC/ARSTRAT Space and Cyberspace Directorate contractor. "Soldiers would then be able to get area info, such as infiltrations, from ground sensors so they don't have to go into harm's way. Basically the Warfighter will have to initially go into harm's way to place the unattended ground sensors, but once they have put them in the ground the satellite will interrogate the sensors on every pass.
"Whatever crosses the sensors will receive a time stamp and whatever changes or activities happen in a specific area will be noted and the Soldiers will not have to be put into danger to retrieve and it will ultimately save lives," she added.
The Army's interest in nanosattelites came about to provide low-cost direct support space capabilities for tactical units and to significantly reduce the cost to defend the nation through the use of nanosat technology.
"This is very interesting," said Blake Partker, a University of Alabama -- Huntsville senior working in the SMDC Concepts Analysis Laboratory. "I just got here last week and now I am helping with space technology that will be used to help protect our Soldiers. This lets me feel I am contributing to the Warfighter's mission and support them and all they do."
As the simulation progressed, one of the team members talked about how the system, when fully operational, will help protect tomorrow's troops over tomorrow's battleground.
"The test today is to verify the use of unattended ground sensors so the satellite can use them for relaying data," said Mark Ray, general engineer, SMDC Technical Center, Space Division. "The satellite launched in December 2010 had the ability to communicate using digital data using the unattended ground sensors and the manned ground stations in Huntsville and Colorado Springs. The two satellites launched in September 2012 have been modified so that ground stations can communicate using military FM radios in analog and voice.
"We will experiment with these satellites differently than we did with the first satellite in 2010 by using multiple radios and multiple radio channels," he added. "We plan to have a ground station in Colorado Springs but have not set one up yet. The goal is that any two users within the footprint of the satellite can talk to each other by voice using the military FM radios. That footprint is approximately 2,200 kilometers, or almost half the surface of the continental United States is covered by one or the other satellite."