Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland AFB, N.M., achieved a space milestone when a 220-pound microsatellite came as close as 500 meters of the upper stage of a Minotaur I launch vehicle. The event bodes well for servicing, repairing, and resupplying space vehicles in the future. The Air Force launched Experimental Satellite System-11 microsat in April 2005 on a 12-to 18-month mission to test its ability to rendezvous and perform proximity maneuvers with several dead or inactive US spacecraft. According to program manager Harold Baker, XSS-11 has been “performing better than expected.” He said it shows good fuel efficiency and there have been no “significant technical glitches.”
The Air Force will begin its 71st annual Operation Christmas Drop on Dec. 4. The weeklong exercise is a yearly tradition that delivers supplies such as food, fishing equipment, school books, and clothes to remote islands in the Pacific. It is the longest-running Department of Defense humanitarian mission.