The US Army Space and Missile Defense Command / Army Forces Strategic Command’s (USASMDC / ARSTRAT) Kestrel Eye electro-optical nanosatellite has been successfully deployed from the International Space Station (ISS) into its own orbit.
The satellite was launched as a payload aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 as part of the ISS cargo resupply mission, SpaceX CRS-12, in August this year.
Kestrel Eye is a small, low-cost, visible-imagery satellite that was developed by the USASMDC / ARSTRAT Technical Center to provide near-real-time images to tactical-level ground soldiers.
SMDC Space and Strategic Systems Directorate chief engineer John R. London III said: “Kestrel Eye is a technology demonstrator, but it holds the promise of providing tactical imagery to the soldier on the ground and to do it responsively, persistently and reliably.
“This is a game-changing capability for the army because for the first time commanders in the field will be able to control the entire imagery process from end-to-end, from the tasking of the satellite all the way through to the dissemination of the data to the soldiers who need it.”
Kestrel Eye has now been activated and is ready to receive signals from the ground station. It will then begin the first of four major operational phases.
Phase I involves verifying the satellite’s functionality and making any necessary adjustments, while Phase II comprises a technical demonstration of the satellite to demonstrate its full capability.
The third phase will see an operational demonstration conducted by the Kestrel Eye Joint Capability Technology Demonstration Combatant Command partner, US Pacific Command.
Additionally, a limited military utility assessment will be conducted by the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command during the operational demonstration.
The satellite will then take part in a series of army exercises as part of the fourth phase.