The US Air Force Research Laboratory’s space vehicles directorate has released images taken in orbit by its $82 million, 100kg (220lb) Experimental Satellite System (XSS)-11 microsatellite.


The images follow more than 75 successful autonomous rendezvous with an orbiting Minotaur I launch vehicle upper stage at distances between 1.5km (0.9 miles) and 500m, since its April 2005 launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The XSS-11 is designed to investigate a variety of prospective space applications, including servicing, repair and resupply.

“XSS-11 is a demonstration in space rendezvous and proximity operations,” says Harold Baker, XSS-11 programme manager. “The craft has an onboard rendezvous and proximity operations planner to aid in developing autonomous operations for future concepts and missions.”

Baker says XSS-11 does not rely on navigation aids from other resident space objects or docking mechanisms.

With lower-than-expected fuel consumption, it should operate until the third quarter of 2006. Its reliability has enabled the number of flight-control staff to be halved.


Source: Flight International