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Smaller Satellites One Step Closer To Reality?

By | September 2, 2004

      It seems that the U.S Air Force was listening to Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) when he told attendees at the National Defense Industrial Association Space Symposium in July that there needs to be a change in focus from large complex satellites to smaller, more cost-effective ones. The Air Force Research Laboratory just awarded a $740,000 contract to SpaceDev [SPDV] to begin development of small satellite bus technologies with an emphasis on standards and responsiveness to on- demand needs. According to SpaceDev, the project calls for the designing of a system that could be integrated and launched in hours or days instead of in years.

      SpaceDev said the contract calls for the development of a standardized small spacecraft bus that is modular and that provides a scalable, networked architecture. The company said it will define standard payload and launch-vehicle interfaces to enable plug-and-play of a variety of payloads that could be rapidly launched on a variety of launch vehicles on demand.

      SpaceDev Founder and CEO Jim Benson told Satellite Today that, in addition to working on the small satellite concept, the company also has contracts to build a new generation of launchers that would facilitate the low turnaround time for an on-demand launch of a small satellite that uses rubber or plastic nitrous oxide as the boosting fuel. This makes it easy for the government or other commercial entities to purchase and stockpile launchers for use in an on-demand launch environment.

      “We have got to break the bottleneck on the launch side,” Benson said.

      For more details on Allard’s comments to the NDIA, read the August issue of Satellite News’s Government Procurement Report. For more information on subscribing to Access Intelligence’s satellite publications, please visit us on the Web at

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