REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama -- Three nanosatellites were delivered to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California, in March for initial integration in preparation for a scheduled August launch with United Launch Alliance from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
The satellites, part of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command's Nanosatellite Program, or SNaP, comprise a small constellation that allows U.S. and international forces to communicate across great distances.
They are part of the Army's continuing effort to develop low-cost space support capabilities through the evolution of advanced nanosatellite technologies and concepts.
"These three are much more capable in the communication arena and are a much more robust version of the previous SMDC nanosatellites," said Jeff Stewart, technical manager, Space Superiority Division, USASMDC/ARSTRAT. "This is a Joint Capabilities Technology Demonstration that will focus on voice and data communications beyond line of sight and improved access to high value information."
Another difference from previous satellites is that this is the first cubesat launch with propulsion capability and SMDC's first with deployable solar arrays for battery charging, Stewart said.
"The benefit of propulsion is to prove we can accomplish the technological challenge of having propulsion capability in a small package and to allow us to maintain proper satellite spacing within the constellation to maximize contact availability," Stewart said. "The benefit of deployable solar arrays is to maximize power generation. On previous satellites the solar panels were attached to the sides of the satellite. At any one time, a maximum of only two panels would be pointed at the sun. With deployable arrays, we can orient all four toward the sun."
The JCTD is being conducted with U.S. Southern Command to evaluate the operational effectiveness of small, low-cost satellites.
"The purpose of this mission is to reduce tactical surprise and achieve overmatch at the squad level by demonstrating operational prototype nanosatellites that enable mission command on the move and allow tactical leaders to synchronize action, seize the initiative and maintain situational awareness," Stewart said.
SMDC's Concepts Analysis Laboratory, or CAL, will assist with contacting and tracking the satellite. Initial contact attempts will occur a few hours after launch.