The U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center and its mission partners, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), successfully launched the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-2 mission from the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A at 2:30 a.m. EDT on June 25 (11:30 p.m. Pacific, June 24).
STP-2 is the first Defense Department mission to use the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle and the first DOD mission to re-use previously flown rocket boosters. The mission placed two-dozen research and development experiments into three distinct space orbits.
The STP-2 mission is managed by the DOD’s Space Test Program and the Rocket Systems Launch Program — Air Force Space Command’s Space and Missile Systems Center units that focus on experimental demonstrations of new capabilities. SMC procured the mission to provide spaceflight for multiple DOD, NASA, and NOAA-sponsored military and civil experiments, as well as to demonstrate the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle for future operational DOD missions.
The STP-2 mission provided the U.S. Air Force with insight into the SpaceX booster recovery and refurbishing process, enabling future National Security Space missions on SpaceX launch vehicles using previously flown boosters.
“This was a momentous launch for NASA, NOAA, and the DOD,” said Col. Dennis Bythewood, program executive officer for Space Development. “The SpaceX Falcon Heavy allows the Air Force to begin using previously flown rocket technology to further reduce the cost of launch. This mission demonstrated SMC’s continuing commitment to leverage the most innovative technologies to deliver cost-effective space capabilities.”
The STP-2 mission deployed 24 total spacecraft using multiple launch vehicle upper-stage burns and maneuvers. The spacecraft included the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Demonstration and Science Experiment satellite and the NOAA-sponsored Constellation Observing System for Meteorology Ionosphere & Climate-2, or COSMIC-2 constellation. STP-2 also fielded four NASA experiments, five small satellites, eight Poly-Picosat Orbital Deployers containing eleven CubeSats, and multiple other research experiments. The missions on board STP-2 will provide valuable data to improve weather forecasting, space environmental monitoring, propulsion, communication, and many other advanced space technologies.
“STP-2 was a remarkable achievement for the entire team,” said Col. Tim Sejba, director of SMC’s Innovation and Prototyping Directorate. “In one launch, we delivered 24 spacecraft to a variety of orbits. Each of these missions will advance civil and military objectives by demonstrating next generation space technologies. It’s a perfect example of how we are leaning forward under SMC 2.0 to bring exciting new space capabilities to the Defense Department and our mission partners.”
The Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California, is the U.S. Air Force’s center of acquisition excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes the development of advanced space and launch capability and systems, global positioning systems, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space-based infrared systems, and space situational awareness capabilities.