NASA Green Propellant Mission To Host Three Pentagon Experiments

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WASHINGTON — A NASA mission aimed at developing a nontoxic propellant for satellite thrusters will host three experimental payloads for the U.S. Defense Department when it launches in 2016.

The Defense Department’s Space Experiments Review board has selected three payloads to be hosted aboard NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM), according to an Oct. 15 press release from Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., the program’s prime contractor. Boulder, Colorado-based Ball received a $3.4 million contract from NASA to integrate the payloads with the GPIM space vehicle, the press release said.

The selected payloads are: an Air Force Academy mission to characterize Earth’s ionosphere and thermosphere; a Naval Research Laboratory mission to measure plasma densities and temperatures; and an Air Force Institute of Technology experiment that will test space collision avoidance measures.

Earlier versions of the Air Force Academy and Naval Research Lab payloads flew on the second Space Test Program satellite, known as STPSat-3, which launched in 2013.

The GPIM is part of the Air Force’s STP-2 mission package slated to launch on the second flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket being developed by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. of Hawthorne, California. SpaceX’s public manifest shows the STP-2 mission launching in 2015, but Ball said it has pushed to 2016.