Space Test Program
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 Space Development and Test Wing of the United States Air Force. STP provides spaceflight via the International Space Station, piggybacks, secondary payloads and dedicated launch services.
Activities during 2001
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 (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.
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.
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.
In December 2001, STS-108 hosted the Ram Burn Observation (RAMBO) Experiment and Shuttle Ionospheric Modification with Pulsed Localized Exhaust (SIMPLEX) experiment. RAMBO used an operational satellite to view Shuttle engine firings to optimize band selection for SBIRS and improve the fidelity of DOD plume models. SIMPLEX observed ionospheric disturbances created by Shuttle engine burns via ground radar sites and supported plume technology, plume signature, and space weather modeling.
Activities during 2002
RAMBO and SIMPLEX flew again on STS-110 in April 2002. In June 2002, RAMBO was again successful on STS-111 with a total of four Shuttle engine burns viewed. STP also worked to obtain a 1-year radio frequency license extension for the Picosat experiment launched on the September 2001 Kodiak Star mission.
Activities during 2003
Activities during 2007
- Orbital Express: ASTRO and NextSat, (DARPA)
- MidSTAR-1, (United States Naval Academy)
- FalconSat3, (United States Air Force Academy)
- STPSat 1, USAF's Space Test Program
- CFESat, (Los Alamos National Laboratory)
The satellites shared the launcher through use of an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA). United Launch Alliance provided a video feed of the launch.
Activities during 2008
Activities during 2010
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, 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.
Activities during 2014
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.
The STP-2 (DoD Space Test Program) payload is scheduled to be launched aboard a Falcon Heavy in 2017. The payload should include ISAT (Innovative Space-based Radar Antenna Technology) flight demonstrator satellite with a mass of over 5000 kg, and COSMIC-2, a cluster of six satellites, with a mass of 277.8 kg each. The ISAT program aims to deploy extremely large (up to 300 yards) electronically scanning radar antennas in orbit. 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. The integrated 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. STP-2 will also host up to 8 CubeSat nanosatellites deployed with P-PODs (Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployers).
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