Space Test Program

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The Space Test Program (STP) is the primary provider of spaceflight for the United States Department of Defense (DoD) space science and technology community. STP is conducted by the Advanced Systems and Development Directorate, a directorate of the Space and Missile Systems Center of the United States Air Force.[1] STP provides spaceflight via the International Space Station, piggybacks, secondary payloads and dedicated launch services.

Past activities[edit]


During August 2001 STP conducted two successful activities using the Shuttle and ISS. STS-105 delivered and successfully deployed the Materials International Space Station Experiment (Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE)) externally on the ISS. MISSE, a passive materials exposure experiment, is the first external experiment on ISS. In addition, STS-105 retrieved and returned MACE II (Middeck Active Control Experiment II) from the ISS. MACE II was the first experiment on ISS and was operated for nearly a year.[2]

On September 30, 2001, STP and NASA launched the Kodiak Star mission on an Athena I launch vehicle. This was the first orbital launch out of Kodiak Island, Alaska. In addition to NASA's Starshine III spacecraft, this mission included three small DoD spacecraft which tested a variety of new space technologies.[3]

STP and the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate developed a secondary payload adapter ring for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV), which can host up to six 400-pound micro satellites. STP also worked closely with NASA and the United States Navy on the Geosynchronous Imaging Fourier Transform Spectrometer/Indian Ocean Meteorology and Oceanography Imager project.[citation needed]

In December 2001, STS-108 hosted the Shuttle Ionospheric Modification with Pulsed Localized Exhaust (SIMPLEX) experiment. SIMPLEX observed ionospheric disturbances created by Shuttle engine burns via ground radar sites and supported plume technology, plume signature, and space weather modeling.[citation needed]


SIMPLEX flew again on STS-110 in April 2002.[citation needed] STP also worked to obtain a 1-year radio frequency license extension for the Picosat experiment launched on the September 2001 Kodiak Star mission.[citation needed]


On January 6, 2003, STP and the Naval Research Laboratory launched the Coriolis satellite, a risk-reduction effort for NPOESS, aboard a Titan II launch vehicle.[4]


On March 9, 2007, six satellites were launched into LEO on a shared Atlas V launch vehicle. The satellites were:

The satellites shared the launcher through use of an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA).[5] United Launch Alliance provided a video feed of the launch.[6]


The C/NOFS (Communications/Navigation Outage Forecasting System) satellite, which was launched on 2008-04-16, will be operated by the Space Test Program.[citation needed]


The third Minotaur IV, known as STP-S26, was successfully launched in November 2010. This was the 26th small launch vehicle mission in STP's 40-year history of flying DoD space experiments,[7] STP-S26 launched at 01:45 UTC on 20 November 2010 from the Kodiak Launch Complex. The launch facility contractor was Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC). The payloads were released in a 650-kilometer (400 mi) orbit, before the Hydrazine Auxiliary Propulsion System (HAPS) upper stage was demonstrated by deploying two ballast payloads into a 1,200 km (750 mi) orbit. The payload included the STPSat-2 spacecraft.[8]


STPSat 3 is a copy of the STPSat-2 satellite, which carried five experiments, including a module designed to host various space situational awareness sensors and a pair of space environment sensors. It launched on November 19, 2013.[citation needed]


Contract award : As announced on Tuesday, October 14, 2014, the United States Department of Defense awarded Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space Systems (previously known as SpaceDev) with a contract to develop and build a next-generation science and technology demonstration satellite, known as STPSat-5, for their Space Test Program.[9]

Upcoming activities[edit]


The STP-2 (DoD Space Test Program) payload is scheduled to be launched aboard a Falcon Heavy in June 2019.[10] The payload is composed of 25 small spacecraft.[11]

Included is COSMIC-2, a cluster of six satellites, with a mass of 277.8 kg each.[12] The primary role of the COSMIC-2 satellite constellation is to provide radio occultation data with an average latency of 45 minutes. The six satellites will be placed on an orbit with an inclination of 24 to 28.5 degrees with six separate orbital planes with 60 degree separation between them.[13] The payload stack will be integrated using EELV Secondary Payload Adapter. Two ESPA Grande rings will be used to mount the six COSMIC-2 satellites beneath the ESPA ring hosting the DSX payload and avionics modules.[14]

STP-2 will also host up to 8 CubeSat nanosatellites deployed with P-PODs (Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployers).[12] Other secondary payloads include LightSail 2[15] carried by the Prox-1 nanosatellite,[15] Oculus-ASR nanosatellite,[16] GPIM,[17][18][19] and the Deep Space Atomic Clock.[20]


The STP-3 payload is scheduled to be launched on a ULA Atlas 5 551 rocket in June 2019.[21]. It includes the STPSat-6 satellite with the NNSA's Space and Atmospheric Burst Reporting System-3, NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration payload, and six more secondary payloads for the US Air Force.


  1. ^ "SMC stands up new Advanced Systems and Development Directorate". USAF.
  2. ^ "2001 Aeronautics and Space Report of the President". NASA.
  3. ^ NASA: Kodiak Star 2001 Archived 2012-04-14 at WebCite
  4. ^ "WINDSAT Project Description". NOAA. Archived from the original on 2005-11-09.
  5. ^ "Atlas V Multiple and Secondary Payload Carriers" (PDF). Lockheed Martin.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Atlas V launch". YouTube.
  7. ^ Brinton, Turner. "Air Force's STP-S26 Mission Loaded with New Technologies". SPACENEWS. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  8. ^ "STPSat-2 Experimental Satellite". Retrieved 19 December 2017.
  9. ^ "US DoD awards STPSat-5 satellite production contract to Sierra Nevada". October 16, 2014. Retrieved October 16, 2014.[unreliable source?]
  10. ^ Clark, Stephen (14 March 2019). "Air Force sees upcoming Falcon Heavy launches as key to certifying reused rockets". Retrieved 13 April 2019.
  11. ^ Rideshare mission for U.S. military confirmed as second Falcon Heavy launch. Stephen Clark, Spaceflight Now. 1 March 2018.
  12. ^ a b "Mission Requirements Document (MRD) FA8818-12-R-0026 T.O. SM-2.4".
  13. ^ "NARLabs-FORMOSAT-7-COSMIC-2-Mission". NARLabs.
  14. ^ "DSX (Cygnus)". Gunter's Space Page.
  15. ^ a b "Lightsail". Planetary Society. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  16. ^ "Oculus-ASR". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 2016-03-15.
  17. ^ "About Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM)". NASA. 2014. Retrieved 2014-02-26.
  18. ^ "Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM)". Ball Aerospace. 2014. Retrieved 2014-02-26.
  19. ^ "The Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM)" (PDF). Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. March 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-12-20. Retrieved 2014-02-26.
  20. ^ "Deep Space Atomic Clock". NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA. 27 April 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-28.
  21. ^ "ULA wins competition for $191 million Air Force launch". Retrieved 2018-02-01.

External links[edit]