Getting a Jumpstart:

The Air Force-led Operationally Responsive Space Office at Kirtland AFB, N.M., announced March 3 that it intends to conduct a special mission in June to launch experimental payloads and, in the process, test out new processes and procedures for quickly placing satellites in orbit to support combatant commanders. The Jumpstart mission will take place at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands using a SpaceX Falcon 1 small-sized launch vehicle. The rocket will carry three payloads: a third-generation plug-‘n’-play satellite bus; a second modular spacecraft bus; and two autonomous co-flying nanosatellites. Among DOD’s additional ORS activities are the development and launch of a series of Tactical Satellites, Gary Payton, deputy under secretary of the Air Force for Space Programs, told the Senate Armed Service strategic forces subcommittee March 4. “We currently have four TacSats that we have defined; one has been launched, the other three are in different stages of preparation for launch,” he said. He said TacSat-5, one of these four, will employ a plug-‘n’-play spacecraft. It will be a demonstration where “we can plug together the spacecraft” similar to the manner in which laptop computers are readily assembled today based on the order of a customer, he said. Efforts are also underway to increase the Air Force’s capacity to prepare more than one Minotaur launch vehicle, envisioned for ORS missions, at a time. “We need to be in the business of processing a Minotaur up in Kodiak, Alaska, for a launch, and, at the same time, one out of Wallops Island here in Virginia,” Payton said.