DoD Spends $15 Million On Microsatellite Program
BOSTON — The Department of Defense is spending $15 million to develop a new generation of microsatellites that would perform tactical roles for the battlefield. The program, called TACSAT I, is the precursor of a much broader effort by the U.S. military to use low-cost microsatellites on a widespread basis for specific missions.
Speaking to a MilCom 2003 breakfast panel, Vice Admiral Arthur K. Cebrowski (Ret.), director of force transformation in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, compared the microsatellite program to Dell [Nasdaq: DELL], which makes customized computers to order. “We want to be able to launch microsatellites for tactical use in weeks or months rather than decades. We want customized space capabilities,” he said.
The prototype being developed by the Naval Research Laboratory is 20 inches high and 41 inches in diameter. It will be used to provide sensor information to the troops on the ground. Commanders will have access to the sensor information supplied by TACSAT I in real-time through DoD’s classified Internet called SIPRNET (Secret Internet Protocol Network). Future microsatellites would serve other roles, such as communications, Cebrowski said. “We fully expect that this prototype will be the first in a series.”
Asked about commercial opportunities, Cebrowski said he expects commercial launchers to place the microsatellites in orbit. The launch provider for the prototype satellite is El Segundo, Calif.-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX). “There are a lot of commercial people interested in this program,” he added. The TACSAT I program is expected to take only nine months from conception to launch, which is set for early next year from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
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