SpaceDev Satellite Chosen to Ride SpaceX's Third Falcon 1 Rocket
An artist's depiction of SpaceDev's Trailblazer satellite in orbit. The satellite is set to launch aboard SpaceX's third Falcon 1 rocket in late June 2008.
Credit: SpaceDev.

BOSTON - The Pentagon announced May 29 that its Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) program office has selected a SpaceDev-built spacecraft over two other candidate payloads for the upcoming launch of Space Exploration Technologies' Falcon 1 rocket.

The Trailblazer satellite will help pave the way for future spacecraft platforms for ORS missions using modular designs and off-the-shelf components, according to a Pentagon news release.

The satellite was developed as part of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency's Distributed Sensing Experiment, which was intended to examine the use of inexpensive small satellites for spotting and tracking ballistic missiles. That experiment was canceled last year.

Trailblazer will launch in late June aboard a Falcon 1 launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The Falcon-1 has failed to place a payload in its only two launches to date.

In an effort to demonstrate the flexibility and responsiveness that are central to the ORS concept, the ORS program office considered three payloads for the upcoming launch, the idea being to make a selection much closer to the liftoff date than typically is the case. The two other payloads considered were: The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory's Plug and Play satellite platform, which was the first choice, but trailed the others in terms of readiness; and CUSat, which was developed under a partnership between the Air Force and Cornell University and consists of two tiny satellites that would separate in space, with one taking images of the other and sending them to the ground to demonstrate an orbital inspection capability.

Peter Wegner, director of the ORS program office, said in the news release that the office remains interested in "seeing all three of these spacecraft successfully complete their missions, and will work with the broader community to make that desire a reality."

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