AFRL Spacecraft Recurve launched on Virgin Orbit Space Force mission

The AFRL Space Vehicle Directorate’s Recurve spacecraft launched into low Earth orbit July 2 from Mojave Air and Spaceport, Rutan Field, Mojave, Calif. as part of a mission for the Virgin Orbit US Space Force space trials. Courtesy/AFRL

AFRL News:

KIRTLAND AFB — The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicle Branch Recurve Spaceflight Experiment launched July 2 from Mojave Air and Spaceport on the Virgin Orbit space system.

The launch supported the US Space Force’s STP-S28A mission and carried six additional payloads for the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program (STP).

Recurve is the latest of several low-cost CubeSats designed, built and operated entirely in-house at the Space Vehicle Branch located at Kirtland AFB.

“AFRL’s CubeSat program advances the country’s space portfolio by developing a hybrid space architecture that encompasses both large and small satellites,” said Recurve program manager Kate Yoshino. “Recurve will advance CubeSat technology by demonstrating adaptive radio frequency [RF] system capability from a platform in low Earth orbit.

The spacecraft will validate a cognitive RF system capable of performing in situ adaptive decision making.

“This advanced technology will allow Recurve to evaluate an inherent positioning, navigation and timing capability under various operating and environmental conditions,” Yoshino said.

Additionally, Recurve will evaluate mesh network behavior across multiple nodes in multi-domain applications, bringing insights to where the fighter is.

Mesh networks, sometimes called meshnet, and unlike star or tree networks, connect directly to as many other nodes as possible and work together to route data to and from users. The lack of dependence on a single node allows each node to participate in the relay of information, thus increasing the resilience of the satellite.

“Recurve advances us toward a vision of ubiquitous communications networks, to include beyond the line of sight, to ensure our fighters have the information they need both quickly and reliably,” said the Lt. Col. David Johnson, AFRL Space Vehicle Directorate Integrated Experiments and Evaluations Division Chief.

STP-S28A is the first of three missions the US Space Force has contracted with Virgin Orbit. Recurve will be in orbit for up to a year.

About the AFRL

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the principal scientific research and development center of the Department of the Air Force. The AFRL plays a critical role in the discovery, development and integration of affordable combat technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a staff of over 11,500 people in nine technology areas and 40 other operations around the world, AFRL offers a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from basic research to advanced research and technology development. For more information visit: www.afresearchlab.com.

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