Millennium Space Systems has completed a successful high-altitude balloon test of its new microsatellite bus, developed under the company’s DARPA SeeMe contract.

SeeMe, or Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements, is DARPA program intended to provide near-realtime tactical intelligence to the warfighter in the field, using a constellation of small satellites in orbit. Two dozen satellites would deliver one-meter-resolution images to handheld terminals in the field. The satellites would be launched from an aircraft usingma system developed under a parallel program called Airborne Launch Assist Space Access. DARPA hopes to test the first SeeMe constellation in Earth orbit by 2015. The SeeMe program has been targeted for cancellation by the US Senate, however.


The 1.5-hour flight to nearly 30 kilometers altitude over California’s Mojave Desert exercised key satellite subsystems and operational capabilities. The SeeMe prototype carried a telescope and new technology digital camera developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory which successfully captured images of the Earth during the mission, simulating the intended orbital capability. Engineers commanded the payload and received the resulting images from a mobile ground terminal, emulating the SeeMe “point and shoot” military theater operations concept.

“The SeeMe flight test was a key step in validating our micro-bus satellite platform,” said Millennium Space Systems’ SeeMe project manager Mike Scardera. “At 27U, [SeeMe is] a deliberately upsized CubeSat to accommodate bigger, heavier and higher power payloads than smaller 3U and 6U CubeSats.” (1U, or CubeSat unit, is 10 cm or approximately 4 inches on a side.)

“The detailed images we retrieved clearly demonstrate Lawrence Livermore’s unique optics design is well suited for this size spacecraft, to provide high quality space remote sensing. The flight test also demonstrated our mobile command and control element’s ability to request and receive information packets directly from space, key to DARPA’s SeeMe goal to enable warfighters to request and receive tactical imagery directly from a low-earth orbit satellite constellation.”

Millenium Space Systems says the SeeMe platform opens the door for revolutionary affordability in space with performance and payload accommodations beyond the reach of traditional cubesats. The company will sell the basic SeeMe bus for approximately $500,000, delivered just 90 days from receipt of order. “These breakthroughs in price and delivery schedule will create new business models in space, enabling ultra-low-cost constellation missions,” said Laura White, Millennium’s Director of Business Operations.

Airborne Launch Assist for Space Access (ALASA) Launch Sequence -- DARPA project

Written by Astro1 on October 16th, 2013 , Military Space

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