Monday April 27, 2009
What is it?
The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command's SMDC-ONE technology demonstration will design and test nanosatellites weighing as little as four-kilograms. These nanosatellites can be placed into a low Earth orbit to receive data files from a ground command and control center. The ground station for the first SMDC-ONE demonstration will be at USASMDC/ARSTRAT on Redstone Arsenal, Ala. The primary objective will be to receive data from multiple ground transmitters and relay that data to a ground station. The intent of this technology demonstration is to build a number of identical satellites and deploy them together into low Earth orbit to simulate enhanced tactical communications capability and evaluate the nanosat performance.
What has the Army done?
On 28 April 2009, eight SMDC-ONE nanosatellites will be delivered to USASMDC/ARSTRAT after a one-year contract effort. The first SMDC-ONE nanosatellite will be placed into orbit in 2009 and the remaining seven at a later date.
What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
To better meet warfighter needs, USASMDC/ARSTRAT is considering mission enabling upgrade features for future nanosatellites to include on-board GPS capability for greater on-board autonomy, addition of an S-band communications link for increased data transmission, inclusion of a software defined radio for greater transceiver frequency flexibility, and modification of the communications element (radio) to increase available volume for payloads.
Why is this important to the Army?
To achieve enhanced capabilities for the warfighter from space, an approach that holds great promise is the deployment of constellations of nanosat-class satellites into low Earth orbit. Because the unit cost for a nanosat is lower (less than $1 million), large numbers for each specific mission could be built and deployed. What a nanosat may lack in performance and reliability when compared on a per-unit basis to a large traditional military satellite, it makes up by its low cost and potential for a persistent presence over given theaters of operations through constellation proliferation.
A nanosat constellation populated by inexpensive spacecraft could be useful in humanitarian support, stability and support operations and nation building. If a satellite ceases to function, it could be rapidly reconstituted. nanosats can provide coverage across specific regions, as well as globally. The use of nanosats in such a fashion will enable UAV-like performance for communication from spaceborne assets that can provide data directly into theaters of operation.
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