The U.S. Air Force’s TacSat-3, a hyperspectral imaging spacecraft launched in May 2009 atop a Minotaur 1 rocket on a six-month mission to demonstrate the military utility of direct-tasking satellites from the battlefield, re-entered the atmosphere April 30 near Australia.

TacSat-3 served in an operational capacity from 2010 until earlier this year, when it was transferred to the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center to return to an experimental role.

ATK Aerospace, the contractor that built the 400-kilogram satellite to accommodate a hyperspectral sensor supplied by Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems of El Segundo, Calif., provided the Air Force with updated flight software in February that allowed TacSat-3 to conduct on-orbit collection testing.

“TacSat-3 served America well. We are proud to be part of the team that provided reconnaissance data from space to warfighters in the field and to intelligence analysts at home,” Tom Wilson, vice president and general manager of ATK Aerospace Group’s Beltsville, Md.-based space systems division, said in a May 1 statement. “Our innovative bus technology was a key factor in successfully extending the TacSat-3 demonstration to a longer-term operational mission.”