The U.S. Space Force (USSF)’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) successfully delivered the Long Duration Propulsion ESPA – 1 (LDPE-1) space Vehicle to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida on Dec 7.
LDPE-1 is the first of two spacecraft on the Space Test Program 3 (STP-3) mission, slated to launch on February 26, 2021.
LDPE-1 was safely transported from Northrop Grumman Space Systems in Gilbert, Arizona, to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. The delivery of LDPE-1 marks a milestone for the STP-3 mission, leading to the scheduled launch date of February 26, 2021. The satellite will be processed at the Astrotech Space Operations facility in Florida to ensure full functionality and prepare for propellant loading. At the completion of these activities, the satellite will be mated to the STPSat-6 satellite and the two space vehicles will be integrated to a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 551 launch vehicle.
“The delivery of the LDPE-1 satellite is a great accomplishment and puts our team one step closer to fulfilling our mission,” said Col. Timothy Sejba, SMC’s Program Executive Officer for Space Development. “The LDPE-1 team members have displayed professionalism, hard work and dedication from across all parts of the country. The delivery of LDPE-1 brings us another step closer to advancing rideshare capabilities.”
LDPE provides a standardized, satellite bus that can host multiple payloads on any National Security Space Launch (NSSL) mission with available mass margin. This platform extends the U.S. Space Force’s standard service policy for affordable rideshare and provides the DoD with the capability to leverage available mass margin with minimal non-recurring engineering between each launch on which it is utilized due to its modular bus design and standard interfaces.
In 2017, Orbital ATK (now merged with Northrop Grumman) was awarded a contract from the Space and Missiles Center to build the LDPE space platform. LDPE, based on Orbital ATK’s ESPAStar platform, is positioned between the launch booster and the primary satellite payload, and is used to carry small payloads or deploy small satellites.
ESPAStar platform leverages work performed on the Orbital ATK-designed ESPA Augmented Geostationary Laboratory Experiment (EAGLE), which successfully demonstrated similar technology for the U.S. Air Force. The platform provides power, pointing, telemetry, command and control for attached payloads or for small satellites that can be deployed from the vehicle. It can accommodate any combination of up to six hosted or 12 separable, free-flyer payloads in low and geosynchronous orbit.
ESPAStar uses a modified EELV Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) ring as its structure and is capable of being launched aboard any launch vehicle that meets the EELV (Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle) standard interface specification. It provides a modular, cost effective and highly capable platform for hosting technology development and operational payloads.
The ESPA ring had been used on all 3 EELV rockets (Atlas V, Delta IV and Falcon 9). Multiple ESPA rings may be used on a single launch, stacked to increase the satellite carrying capacity.