The USSF-12 features two satellite payloads: the Wide Field of View (WFOV) Testbed for SSC’s Space Sensing Directorate and the USSF-12 Ring spacecraft for the Defense Department’s Space Test Program.
Atlas V will deliver both spacecraft directly to GEO approximately 22,000 miles (35,500 km.) above the equator, approximately 6 hours after liftoff.
The forward payload, WFOV, is a testbed spacecraft that informs the Next Gen Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) program. The Next Gen OPIR program will succeed the Space Based Infrared Systems program and is designed to provide a resilient, space-based, global missile warning capability against emerging missile and counter-space threats.
Sponsored by Space Systems Command and managed by the NASA Ames Research Center, the mid-sized WFOV spacecraft is based on Millennium’s AQUILA M8 affordable platform series and hosts a transformational OPIR six-degree staring sensor developed under a separate contract by L3Harris Technologies.
The WFOV testbed is designed for a 3- to 5-year life with a total mass up to 6,613 lbs. (3,000 kg.) and a payload accommodation over 771 lbs. (350 kg.). WFOV’s primary mission in orbit is to explore future missile warning algorithms with data collected in space.
The aft payload is a propulsive ESPA named the USSF-12 Ring. The Ring is a classified mission to demonstrate future technology for the Department of Defense.
A direct-insertion GEO launch is one of the most challenging types of missions required by national security spaceflight. The launch vehicle performs three firings of its upper stage to deliver the payload to an altitude more than 22,000 miles over the equator without the satellites themselves needing to perform any large-scale orbit-raising maneuvers.
Geosynchronous orbit is the location where satellites match the Earth’s rotation and remain in lockstep above the same spot of the globe as they orbit.
Powering the Centaur upper stage for this launch is the 514th production engine from the RL10 family. For more than 50 years, Aerojet Rocketdyne‘s RL10 engine has played a vital role in placing hundreds of military, government and commercial satellites into Earth orbit and has helped send spacecraft to explore every planet in our solar system.
In addition to Centaur, ULA uses RL10 on the Delta Cryogenic Second Stage for the Delta IV and in the next-generation Vulcan Centaur rocket. This was the 93rd security mission in 150 flights for ULA
Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) played a vital role in the successful launch and deployment of the U.S. Space Force (USSF)-12 mission that launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
As part of this mission, a Northrop Grumman-built ESPAStar satellite™ and a Wide Field of View testbed missile detection satellite launched on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket, powered by Northrop Grumman-provided solid rocket boosters and other critical components.
The ESPAStar platform supports a wide range of missions by utilizing the ESPA standard. ESPAStar is equipped with multiple payload ports that can accommodate hosted and free-flying payloads.
Four of the company’s 63-inch-diameter Graphite Epoxy Motors (GEM 63) solid rocket boosters provided approximately 1.5 million pounds of thrust at launch to help lift the rocket and payload from the pad. Earlier this month, the company finalized a contract for its GEM solid rocket boosters to fly on ULA’s next-generation Vulcan rocket, one of the largest commercial solid rocket motor contracts in history.
Northrop Grumman also provided numerous subsystems for the ESPAStar bus, including the solar arrays, propellant tanks, satellite and star tracker structures.
Using advanced fiber placement manufacturing and automated inspection techniques, Northrop Grumman produced the composite first-stage heat shield, the Centaur Interstage Adapter that houses the second-stage engine and the broadtail that adapts from the core vehicle to the five-meter diameter fairing. The company also manufactured hydrazine propellant tanks, which feed the Centaur Upper Stage reaction control system to provide guidance and control.
“ESPAStar provides rapid access to space,” said Troy Brashear, vice president, national security systems, Northrop Grumman. “As the ESPAStar mission owner, we combined critical technology into a single cohesive mission, including hardware integration and test, ground software, command and control development and integration, mission execution planning, and on-orbit operations.”
Early July 1, 2022, posting…
The launch of the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V 541 rocket, carrying the United States Space Force (USSF)-12 mission for Space Systems Command, has been delayed to no earlier than 6:00 p.m. EDT (3 p.m. PDT) on Friday, July 1, due to inclement weather. The mission is set to launch from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida.
Original posting follows…
Liftoff is scheduled to occur from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, on Thursday, June 30th, 2022, at 6:00 p.m., EDT (2200 UTC).
The Atlas V rocket launching the Space Force’s USSF-12 mission features a special In-Flight Power System (IFPS) to top off the Wide Field of View (WFOV) payload’s batteries during the long ascent into orbit, and ULA electrical integration lead Jordan Gleba has worked to ensure it functions as designed.
USSF-12 is a dual-manifest mission consisting of two satellites. The upper payload is the Wide Field of View (WFOV) Testbed to demonstrate new missile warning satellite technologies. Launching in the lower position of the payload stack is the Space Test Program‘s USSF-12 Ring spacecraft.
Shepherding the requirements to deliver two innovative national security satellites into orbit aboard the same Atlas V rocket is the responsibility of Anna Ly, United Launch Alliance (ULA) mission integration systems engineer (MISE) for the United States Space Force (USSF)-12 launch.
The latest forecast from Launch Weather Officer Jessica Williams of the Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron indicates a 60 percent chance of acceptable conditions for this launch of the Atlas V and USSF-12.
The forecast includes scattered low clouds and a broken deck of high clouds, good visibility, scattered rain showers, southeasterly winds 12-17 knots and a temperature near 82 degrees F.
The primary area of concern will be violation to the Cumulus Cloud Rule that guards against triggered lightning.
ULA will provide live countdown status updates from launch control at the start of the countdown and continuing to spacecraft separation in geosynchronous orbit. The launch webcast starts 20 minutes before liftoff. www.ulalaunch.com