WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy’s experimental Tactical Satellite (TacSat)-4 communications satellite was successfully launched Sept. 27 aboard a Minotaur 4 launch vehicle from the Alaska Aerospace Development Corp.’s Kodiak Launch Complex on Kodiak Island, according to the U.S. Air Force.
Built by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, TacSat-4 carries an experimental ultra-high frequency payload to provide communications services to mobile users with handheld radios. The 450-kilogram satellite, equipped with a 3-meter-diameter antenna, will operate in a highly inclined low Earth orbit, augmenting links provided by the Navy’s operational UHF Follow On communications satellites, which operate above the equator in geostationary orbit. Geostationary orbiting satellites are not ideal for providing coverage for forces operating at extremely high or low latitudes.
TacSat-4 was built as part of the Pentagon’s Operationally Responsive Space program, whereby satellites are designed, built and launched relatively quickly and inexpensively in response to emerging military needs. As envisioned, Operationally Responsive Space missions typically would fill capability gaps left by the Pentagon’s primary satellites.
According to the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, the TacSat-4 launch was the fifth successful mission of a Minotaur 4 rocket, which is based in part on excess ICBM motors. The rocket was assembled by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va.