The $35 million task order is for the Space Test Program-S28 (STP-S28) launch service, with the first launch tentatively planned for October 2021.
The US Space Force describes STP-S28 as a complex mission that will deliver “a number of technology demonstrations to orbit, such as Space Domain Awareness and communications advancement, and inform future space system development”.
One of the payloads, for example, will be QUEYSSAT, a cooperative effort between the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and the Canadian Department of National Defence.
The US SMC (Space and Missile Systems Center), states:
This experiment will demonstrate and quantify the potential to improve Earth-satellite quantum channel uplinks via adaptive optics, expand quantum network concepts and exploit this capability for defense applications. QUEYSSAT is illustrative of the technology demonstrations capable via the small satellites that will be launched with this mission as well as demonstrates one of the nearly 20 different organizations STP will partner with.
SMC’s portfolio includes space launch, global positioning, military space vehicle communications, defense meteorological space vehicles and space vehicle control networks, among other responsibilities.
For it’s part, VOX emphasised launch responsiveness:
“With the space domain more contested than ever, it’s crucial that we find ways to enable those responsible for space security to act quickly and effectively,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart.
“Ultimately, we believe that affordable and responsive launch helps keep everyone safer — in part by creating a major disincentive for adversaries to work against existing satellites and space systems. LauncherOne is proving to be an impactful force for good as we work with our nation’s leaders to modernize our space systems and help keep people safe.”
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