A launch vehicle for the Rocket Lab Electron expected to fly next month is going to carry a cubesat that perhaps the United States will use Army to determine the advantages of providing dedicated battlefield surveillance imaging satellites. The experimental spacecraft called Gunsmoke-J is among seven satellites that Rocket Lab’s 19th Electron will launch in mid-March from New Zealand. The payloads will be launched from 450 kilometers to around 550 kilometers above Earth in orbits.

For many years, the Army Space, as well as Missile Defense Command, has been focusing on the Gunsmoke-J. The satellite is a portion of a broader Army initiative to illustrate overhead data collection in the direct support of ground operations, around the size of the loaf of bread. A spokesperson for the Army Space as well as Missile Defense Command, Lira Frye, stated that Gunsmoke-J is a demo of technologies “that could support the commander of ground force in long-range targeting fires as well as other activities.”

For years, Army leaders have claimed that overhead satellite information can be very helpful to operational commanders, but only if it is timely. Field forces do not conveniently or rapidly retrieve satellite imagery since it can take hours or even days to collect photos from the national security satellites. For instance, that won’t help a battlefield commander locate a moving armored car on the ground.

Gunsmoke-J aims to aid fill that void. Frye stated the satellite “will show a capacity to achieve situational awareness down to the minimum possible tactical level.” The assessment will be carried out by units designated to the U.S. Command for the Pacific. In October, TriSept Corporation, a start-up integration as well as mission management firm, won a contract to incorporate the Gunsmoke-J payload together with the dispenser to launch the cubesat into the orbit and also to incorporate the cubesat into the fairing of the payload.

A launch integration as well as mission management firm, TriSept Corporation, confirmed a launch service agreement with the United States Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) on October 21, 2020. Under the deal, TriSept will operate on the Rocket Lab Electron satellite from Mahia, New Zealand, as the launch broker as well as integration manager for the 3-unit cubesat technology demo mission, named Gunsmoke-J, planned to deploy in February 2021.

For this essential technology demo in space, TriSept Chief executive Rob Spicer stated in a report, “TriSept is pleased to have obtained the rideshare spot, dispenser hardware, the regulatory enforcement in both countries as well as spacecraft integration. In the following days, we are looking forward to incorporating this small yet game-changing payload on the Rocket Lab Electron.”

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By Adam