U.S. Army Launches New Low-cost, Small Satellite

Spacecraft Soyuz orbiting the earth. Elements of this image furnished by NASAThe U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) in Huntsville, Alabama, has led the development of a 110-pound spacecraft that recently became live.

On Oct. 24, the Kestrel Eye microsatellite started its space mission, which will provide the military with real-time intelligence from the ground through visible imagery. It took the army several years to develop a small and relatively inexpensive satellite and if the project becomes successful, it could pave the way for the use of smaller satellites for military missions.

Small Spacecraft

For the next eight weeks, the AMDC will conduct “stabilization and technical checkout processes” for the Kestrel Eye, according to spokesperson Cecil Longino. The U.S. Pacific Command will then perform an “independent user evaluation” after these processes, Longino said.

The novelty behind the launch of the microsatellite refers to its ability to provide military commanders to control end-to-end imagery process, including satellite tasking to data dissemination. Its other benefit includes better responsiveness than traditional systems, as the army may now access 1.5-meter resolution satellite imagery within a few minutes. Government agencies have been at the forefront of space exploration, yet commercial companies may also engage in this type of project.

Satellite for Business

A GNSS inertial simulator allows companies to test their signals before launching small satellites into space. The development of small spacecraft has become more common among commercial companies, as BIS Research predicts the global market for small nanosatellites would reach $6.35 billion by 2021.

Some of the applications for low earth orbit satellites including mapping and high-resolution imagery, which are then used for land monitoring, agriculture, urban planning and environmental assessment among other purposes.

The government no longer have the exclusivity of developing small spacecraft, as there are many testing devices that allow private companies to launch their own satellite into space.