WASHINGTON — The Air Force plans to launch two operational satellites and one experimental satellite into near-geosynchronous Earth orbit July 23.
According to Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, “these operational and experimental systems will enhance the nation’s ability to monitor and assess events regarding our military and commercial systems. In essence, they will create a space neighborhood watch capability.”
The two operational satellites are part of the Air Force’s Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program, or GSSAP.
The GSSAP satellites will provide U.S. Strategic Command with space situational awareness data allowing for more accurate tracking and characterization of man-made orbiting objects.
The satellites will drift a safe distance away from the geosynchronous equatorial orbit, or GEO, belt while surveilling the area to further enable spaceflight safety.
As space becomes increasingly congested, contested and competitive, it is imperative to protect the systems in space on which the world depends.
Air Force Space Command commander, Gen. William Shelton said, “we support the peaceful use of space for all countries but we believe it is necessary to increase our ability to detect and attribute any threatening or disruptive actions.”
The experimental satellite program, known as Automated Navigation and Guidance Experiment for Local Space, or ANGELS, is led by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate headquartered at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.
This science and technology satellite will conduct safe research activities around the upper stage of its Delta IV launch vehicle.
ANGELS will test new space situational awareness techniques and technologies while performing safe, automated spacecraft operations to support and enhance future U.S. missions.
AFRL commander Maj. Gen. Thomas Masiello said, “the experiments conducted with ANGELS will allow the United States to safely operate future space situational awareness satellites in a more efficient, effective and autonomous manner.”
Although the two GSSAP spacecraft and the AFRL ANGELS experimental spacecraft will launch on the same United Launch Alliance Delta IV booster out of Cape Canaveral, Florida, the missions and objectives are distinctly different.
As the Air Force continues to develop cutting-edge and essential space programs, James said “this launch is a remarkable accomplishment in the Air Force development of technologies to ensure the safe and responsible use of space.”