Release Sheds Light on Classified Small Satellite Launched Three Years Ago

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WASHINGTON  —  An experimental microsatellite built by Millennium Space Systems of El Segundo, Calif., for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has had three years of  “near-flawless” operations, according to a Feb. 6 press release of the company.

The announcement reveals some details of a classified NRO launch that took place Feb. 6, 2011, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., aboard an Orbital Sciences Corp.-built Minotaur 1. The NRO, which builds and operates the nation’s spy satellites, said at the time only that the rocket carried a classified payload. 

But in Millennium’s release, the company revealed the satellite was developed under the Rapid Pathfinder Program (RPP) managed by the NRO’s Advanced Science and Technology directorate. The RPP is intended for missions that require low risk, affordability and a quick turnaround. 

Millennium’s Rapid Pathfinder is a three-axis-stabilized spacecraft that features a high-performance guidance system and a flexible interface able to accommodate different payloads on a tight schedule, the release said. The satellite was delivered to the NRO less than two years after the preliminary design review, the company said.

The dedicated launch delivered the satellite to a high-inclination, high-altitude low Earth orbit, Millennium said.

“RPP’s proven platform and architecture serves as the foundation of our affordable, high performance flight systems offerings to support more disaggregated and resilient architectures for gap-filler and augmentation missions, as well as for insertion into future operational systems,” Hillary Kenevan, Millennium’s RPP mission operations lead, said in the release.

 

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