WASHINGTON – The launch of the US Army’s new experimental navigation satellite has been postponed to 2023, but the Air Force Research Laboratory says it can use the extra time to reduce risks and conduct more ground tests.
The NTS-3 was supposed to be launched into orbit in 2022, but the AFRL noted at a roundtable in the media on April 28 that its launch date had been postponed to 2023. AFRL Commander Brig. General Heather Pringle said the shift was out of their control, as the satellite would be launched as a payload by the U.S. space forces, and the launch was repulsed.
“This was demonstrated as riding sharing through the space test program in partnership with the Space Operations Command. It is currently planned to launch – at least the satellite part – in 2023, “Pringle said of the delay. “That’s because it’s a ride to share and that’s why we don’t drive this schedule.”
However, Pringle said the lab would use the delay to its advantage, conducting more ground-based experiments and reducing risk in the meantime.
“As for ground equipment and other aspects of the program, we will continue to develop, experiment and look for new opportunities to update this, so that when it goes into space, we are ready to hit the ground running,” Pringle said.
AFRL plans to experiment with the satellite in geosynchronous orbit for a year, testing new PNT signals and spacecraft architectures in addition to new ground-based control and management systems and software-defined radios. Once AFRL completes its test period with NTS-3, it will be transferred to the US space force and integrated into the service’s other PNT capabilities, said Joel Moser, the space force’s chief scientist.
L3Harris Technologies is the main contractor for NTS-3, with the Air Force initially awarding the company a $ 84 million satellite contract in 2018. L3Harris Technologies has completed its critical design review in August 2020.