NEWS | Nov. 7, 2010

STPSat-1 Team Honored by AIAA

By Donna McKinney

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) has honored the STPSat-1 Team with the AIAA Space Systems Award. The Naval Research Laboratory contributed the two science payloads to this satellite and operated the satellite during its 18-month extended mission phase.

The STPSat-1 satellite team was recognized for the successful design, development, integration, and on-orbit tests of technologies and mission operations supporting critical U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy missions. The AIAA Space Systems Award is given to recognize outstanding achievements in the architecture, analysis, design and implementation of space systems.

The DoD Space Test Program (STP) launched STPSat-1 on March 8, 2007, into Low Earth Orbit as one of the payloads on the demonstration flight of the EELV Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) ring aboard an Atlas V launch vehicle (AV-013) as part of the STP-1 mission. The satellite was built by Comtech AeroAstro, a subsidiary of Comtech Telecommunications Corp.

The primary payload was the Spatial Heterodyne Imager for Mesospheric Radicals (SHIMMER), provided by NRL's Space Science Division. SHIMMER's objectives were to make measurements of hydroxyl (OH) in the middle atmosphere and observe Polar Mesospheric Clouds, Earth's highest altitude clouds (82 km). In addition, SHIMMER was designed to demonstrate the feasibility of using Spatial Heterodyne Spectroscopy, a new approach to high-resolution spectroscopy for space based remote sensing.

The second payload was the payload was the Scintillation and Tomography Receiver in Space (CITRIS), provided by NRL's Plasma Physics Division. The primary objectives of CITRIS were (1) to detect when and where radio propagation is adversely affected by scintillation and refraction and (2) to provide a global map of ionospheric densities and irregularities to improve current models of the ionosphere.

Both SHIMMER and CITRIS performed flawlessly during the nominal one-year mission of STPSat-1. After one year, STP's charter required that the fiscal responsibility for the satellite to be transferred to another agency in order for it to continue operations. In a joint effort involving the NRL Space Science Division, the NRL Plasma Physics Division, the NRL Spacecraft Engineering Department, and Tiger Innovations LLC, the team demonstrated a novel, highly automated, low-cost approach to running the satellite out of its Blossom Point facility near La Plata, Maryland. With the success of this demonstration, the STP transferred ownership of STPSat-1 to NRL on June 1, 2008.

The extended mission allowed SHIMMER to collect an additional 18 months of observations of Polar Mesospheric Clouds which are being used to validate the Space Science Division's new high-altitude extension of the Navy's Operational Global Atmospheric Prediction System (NOGAPS). CITRIS used the extended mission to make coordinated ionospheric observations with the NRL CERTO beacon on the Air Force's Communications/Navigation Outages and Forecasting satellite.