A U.S. surveillance satellite whose development was placed on a fast track to support deployed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan has started its yearlong operational mission after being launched June 29 aboard a Minotaur 1 rocket.
The Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Development and Test Directorate transferred control of the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS)-1 satellite to Air Force Space Command’s 14th Air Force Sept. 15, signifying the end of the early orbit checkout phase and the start of early operations for the satellite.
The ORS-1, developed in three years to provide space-based imagery to U.S. troops, is the first operational satellite deployed under the ORS paradigm. The ORS program is intended to shorten the timescale of deploying payloads to give forces tactical intelligence.
The satellite is intended to circle the globe every 90 minutes and provide infrared imagery to U.S. forces in the Middle East and Southwest Asia.
“This transition is an important step toward providing operational capabilities to support our deployed soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines,” Peter Wegner, director of the ORS Office in Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., said in a statement.
The ORS satellite was built by Goodrich ISR Systems of Danbury, Conn., and ATK Space Systems of Beltsville, Md. Its payload is a modified version of the Senior Year Electro-optical Reconnaissance System-2 sensor that Goodrich developed for the U-2 high altitude surveillance aircraft.
The ORS Office was asked in 2008 to build the satellite on a 24-month development schedule. Technical challenges added six months to its development, and while the ORS-1 was expected to launch in May of this year, the Air Force delayed its launch because of issues relating to its launch vehicle. The Minotaur 1 rocket shares hardware in common with the Taurus XL rocket, which had two consecutive launch failures.
Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., assembles both the Taurus XL and Minotaur rockets.