Composite image of the Andromeda galaxy created from images from the GEOStare2 mission that used a Lawrence Livermore monolith telescope payload on a Terran Orbital smallsat. Credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

WASHINGTON — A space imaging payload developed by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was selected for a U.S. Space Force mission intended to test military capabilities to rapidly deploy satellites in response to threats in orbit, the lab announced May 8.

The planned mission, known as Victus Haze, is projected to launch in 2025. Two spacecraft — one from Rocket Lab and another from True Anomaly — will perform maneuvers in close proximity. The Livermore payload will be integrated in Rocket Lab’s vehicle. 

Victus Haze is a “tactically responsive” mission that requires contractors to be ready to launch on short notice, and the Space Force expects the satellites to be operational within hours after launch.

“We are grateful to LLNL for providing their advanced optical payload for this pivotal demonstration,” Lt. Col. Jason Altenhofen, director of operations for the Space Force’s Space Safari program, said in a news release. “Agile integration and rapid on-orbit initialization of external payloads are key enablers to meet the Victus Haze mission objectives.”

‘Monolithic’ telescope

Ben Bahney, head of Lawrence Livermore’s space science and security program, told SpaceNews in a statement that the lab will provide a monolithic telescope built from a single piece of fused silica, “eliminating the need for alignment and calibration after manufacture while still providing the best possible resolution.”

Livermore’s monolithic telescope was developed and patented by lab employees. 

The payload was used in a previous Space Force tactically responsive mission launched in 2021, said Bahney. 

For Victus Haze, the lab will design a different version of the monolith payload that has flown in previous missions, he said. “However, all of the major components have flight heritage.”

A monolith telescope from Livermore is currently operational on the GEOStare2 mission the lab launched in 2021 in partnership with Terran Orbital. The payload has two space telescopes that together have taken thousands of pictures for space domain awareness, astronomy and Earth observations.

Bahney said a gimballed monolith payload called Stellar Occultation Hypertemporal Imaging Payload was deployed on the International Space Station and put into storage in late April 2024 after a year of operations.

Another monolith payload will be part of a NASA Small Satellite Technology Program mission awaiting launch on the SpaceX Transporter 11 rideshare planned for July.  Bahney said the mission is called Pathfinder Test Demonstrator-R, built on a Terran Orbital bus. 

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...