50th Space Wing Public Affairs

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The men and women of the 1st Space Operations Squadron proudly celebrated their Technology for Autonomous Operational Survivability spacecraft’s sixth year in orbit. The spacecraft was expected to last approximately eight months.
The TAOS spacecraft was launched from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., March 13, 1994, on the maiden voyage of the Taurus launch vehicle. In May of 1996, satellite control authority for TAOS was given to 1st Space Operations Squadron from Detachment 2, Space and Missile Systems Center, Onizuka Air Station, Calif. Since then, satellite operators from 1st Space Operations Squadron have been teamed up with the TAOS Payload Center at Onizuka to provide superb command and control of this pathfinder spacecraft.
According to the Mission and Spacecraft Library, TAOS is a technology demonstration satellite whose purpose is to demonstrate autonomous space navigation systems to reduce satellite ground support needs. Lowering the needs for ground support of future spacecraft would 1) increase the survivability of satellites during wartime conditions and 2) reduce satellite operations costs.
TAOS also incorporates several new satellite bus components designed to improve reliability and maintainability of future spacecraft while reducing life-cycle costs. TAOS is the first mission flown under the USAF’s Space Test Experiments Platform program. Satellite operations were interrupted on July 19, 1994 when an inertial measurement unit failed. During the following two-month period, the satellite’s solar panels could not be properly sun-pointed, resulting in a loss of satellite power. Vehicle control was regained following the development of a new satellite control system.
"The 1st SOPS team has done an outstanding job of maintaining this satellite," said 2nd Lt. John Francolini, 1st SOPS engineer. "The spacecraft was built cheaply to see if how long it could last," TAOS was only projected to last about eight months. "I think it’s a surprise to everyone that it has lasted this long," said Francolini.