TacSat-3 Pressed into Operational Status

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The U.S. Defense Department’s TacSat-3 surveillance and reconnaissance satellite on June 18 completed its transition from experimental to operational status, the Pentagon announced June 28.

TacSat-3 was built and operated by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and underwent a one-year demonstration period to test its new hyperspectral sensor. Unlike traditional optical sensors that collect light in only a few bands to produce color imagery, TacSat-3’s ARTEMIS sensor collects light in hundreds of bands and can be interpreted to determine the material composition of objects. The ARTEMIS sensor was developed by Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems of El Segundo, Calif., and the satellite platform was built by ATK Space Systems and Services in Beltsville, Md.

TacSat-3 completed its transition to operations and is now the first overhead surveillance and reconnaissance satellite under the control of U.S. Strategic Command. The operational command and control architecture has been improved since the satellite’s demonstration phase, Air Force Lt. Kinder Blacke said in an e-mail. During the demonstration phase, the satellite was delivering approximately 25 hyperspectral products per month, delivered weeks after collection. Now the satellite is set up to deliver more than 250 products per month to troops in the field just days or hours after collection, Blacke said.