The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Albuquerque, N.M.-based Space Vehicles Directorate said June 10 it was ready to hand over the $60 million Tactical Satellite-3 (TacSat-3) to Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, Colo., marking the imaging satellite’s transition from experimental demonstration to operational asset. At press time, the formal handover was to occur June 12.

Launched in May 2009 aboard a Minotaur 1 rocket, the 400-kilogram satellite proved during its nearly 13-month experimental mission the capability of transmitting processed data to a ground station within 10 minutes of request.

The satellite’s primary payload is the Advanced Responsive Tactically Effective Military Imaging Spectrometer (ARTEMIS), a sophisticated camera that collects images of Earth and breaks down reflected light into hundreds of spectral bands that can be analyzed to reveal the elemental composition of surfaces or objects on the ground. ARTEMIS imagery has been used in the past year to assist earthquake relief efforts in Haiti and Chile.

ARTEMIS was built by Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems of El Segundo, Calif. ATK Aerospace Systems built the satellite bus in Beltsville, Md.