Author Topic: LIVE: Orbital ATK Minotaur 4 - ORS-5 - August 25 2017, SLC-46  (Read 55058 times)

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https://www.ll.mit.edu/news/SensorSat-launched-to-monitor-activity-in-the-geosynchronous-belt.html

ORS-5 SensorSat launched to monitor activity in the geosynchronous belt

Satellite developed at MIT Lincoln Laboratory will fulfill a critical need for space situational awareness.

by Dorothy Ryan | Communications and Community Outreach Office


In the darkness of 2 a.m. on 26 August 2017, the sky over Cape Canaveral, Florida, lit up with the bright plume of a Minotaur rocket lifting off from its launch pad. Aboard the rocket, a satellite developed by Lincoln Laboratory for the U.S. Air Force's Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office awaited its deployment into low Earth orbit. The ORS-5 SensorSat spacecraft is on a 3-year mission to continually scan the geosynchronous belt, which at about 36,000 kilometers above Earth is home to a great number of satellites indispensable to the national economy and security. Data collected by SensorSat will help the United States keep a protective eye on the movements of satellites and space debris in the belt. 

"There was nothing like seeing the massive Minotaur IV blast our creation into orbit, and then getting those familiar telemetry messages to indicate that it's really up there and operating just as it did in thermal vacuum testing," said Andrew Stimac, the SensorSat program manager and assistant leader of the Laboratory's Integrated Systems and Concepts Group.

In the weeks that SensorSat has been in orbit, it has undergone a complete checkout process, opened the cover of its optical system, and collected the first imagery of objects in the geosynchronous belt. The quality of the initial images has demonstrated that SensorSat utilizes a highly capable optical system that is able to conduct its required mission.

The 226-pound SensorSat is small in comparison to current U.S. satellites that monitor activity in the geosynchronous belt. SensorSat's size and its optical system design that uses a smaller aperture make it a lower-cost, more rapidly built option for space surveillance missions than the large systems designed for missions of 10 years or more. "SensorSat is essentially a simple design, but it is a highly sensitive instrument that is one-tenth the size and one-tenth the cost of today's large satellites," said Grant Stokes, head of the Laboratory's Space Systems and Technology Division, which collaborated with the Engineering Division to develop and build the SensorSat satellite.

Traditional large surveillance satellites are designed to collect data on objects known to be in the geosynchronous belt. The optical systems on those satellites are mounted on gimbals so that they can turn their focus toward the targeted objects. SensorSat works on a different concept: its fixed optical system surveys each portion of the belt that is within its current field of view as the satellite orbits Earth.

SensorSat makes approximately 14 passes around Earth each day, providing up-to-date views of activity in the geosynchronous belt. Stokes compared SensorSat's surveillance process to that of airport radars that continuously rotate to visualize a local airspace. Because SensorSat is not aimed at specific known objects, a secondary benefit to its concept of operations is that it may see new objects that pose threats to satellites within the belt.

The adoption of SensorSat-like systems that can be cost-effectively built on short timelines could also make it practical for the United States to more frequently acquire new satellites to keep pace with evolving technology.

SensorSat development and testing were accomplished in just three years, a period about one-third of that needed to develop and field large surveillance satellites. The SensorSat engineering effort involved the design, fabrication, and testing of the satellite structure and cover mechanism, lens optomechanics, telescope baffle, charge-coupled device packaging, electrical cabling, and thermal control.

The assembly, integration, and testing were conducted in Lincoln Laboratory's cleanroom facilities and its Engineering Test Laboratory. According to Mark Bury, assistant leader of the Laboratory's Structural and Thermal-Fluids Engineering Group, the shock, vibration, attitude control system, and thermal-vacuum testing performed were critical in validating SensorSat against the expected launch and space conditions it would need to endure.

"Perhaps the most important events occurred during thermal-vacuum testing," Bury said. "The satellite is exposed to conditions similar to those on orbit, and we used that test to validate our thermal design. Even more important, the thermal-vacuum test enabled us to get significant runtime on the avionics and components within the spacecraft, emulating the communication cadence and data streams that we would eventually see on orbit."

On 7 July, less than two months before launch, SensorSat was shipped to Florida for installation on Orbital ATK's Minotaur IV within a large cleanroom facility at Astrotech Space Operations, just outside the Kennedy Space Center. A team from Lincoln Laboratory performed final assembly steps and prepared the satellite with the software uploads needed initially on orbit.

Joint operations were then conducted with Orbital ATK to complete the mechanical and electrical integration prior to encapsulation with the rocket fairing. The integrated assembly was then transported from Astrotech to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch pad 46 on 13 August.

SensorSat, which resides directly above the equator, orbits at an inclination of zero degrees, an orientation that Stokes said required very precise deployment of the satellite. The Minotaur IV, modified from a 25-year-old Air Force rocket design and now operated by Orbital ATK, was up to the challenge, using two new rocket motors to provide the extra lift needed to reach the equatorial orbit.

SensorSat is now orbiting Earth and collecting data to fulfill its space surveillance mission.

Posted November 2017
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http://www.schriever.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1477392/1st-sops-accepts-sca-of-ors-5/

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 1st Space Operations Squadron accepted control authority of a new satellite during a ceremony at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, March 16.

According to Maj. Patrick Gaynor, operations officer with the 1st SOPS, members with Fourteenth Air Force, the 1st and 7th SOPS and the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Operationally Responsive Space Office worked together in preparation of the transfer of the Operationally Responsive Space-5 satellite system from Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, to the 50th Space Wing.

The satellite was launched Aug. 26, 2017 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The period from launch to transfer allowed SMC to ensure the satellite functioned properly before transferring command and control to the 1st SOPS.

The ORS-5 satellite delivers global, persistent, optical tracking of satellites in geosynchronous orbit, enabling the nation to have increased global situational awareness of space objects.

Capt. Austin Sheeley, ORS-5 lead with the 1st SOPS, explained the importance of the transfer was the culmination of all the hard work accomplished as a team and in coordination with mission partners.

Despite the actual transfer lasting a short period of time, years of preparation were involved in making the transition seamless.

“This satellite culminates over two years of preparation and research,” Sheeley said. “Members with the 1st SOPS and 7th SOPS have spent over 100 days at Kirtland AFB. It’s been a huge work in progress so far, from launching the satellite, to operations, to procedures developed and to the checkout phases.”

The satellite transfer from the SMC to the 1st SOPS provided the squadron and Schriever a new milestone in satellite operations.

“ORS-5 is definitely a game changer,” Gaynor said. “Because this satellite flies directly over the equator, it gives us a different capability to bring on board. Instead of only seeing parts of the geosynchronous belt, we’re seeing the satellite constantly scan it.”

“We are very excited to integrate the ORS-5 satellite into our constellations,” he continued.

The ORS-5 satellite is now one of three Low Earth Orbit satellites that 1st SOPS commands.

“This satellite system is the closest 1st SOPS has gotten to what could be a fully automated system,” Sheeley said. “With this in place, it will have a lower impact on the operators themselves, so they can focus on integration of systems into our warfighting concepts, employ systems in conjunction with other 1st SOPS satellites and ultimately focus on the future of space.”
Best quote heard during an inspection, "I was unaware that I was the only one who was aware."

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