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SWORDS (Soldier-Warfighter Operationally Responsive Deployer for Space) is a dedicated nanosatellite launcher that was competitively selected by the Office of the Secretary of Defense as a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration.

The SWORDS launcher is a cooperative project between Office of theSecretary of Defense, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command and NASA. The transition manager for the Joint Capability Technology Demonstration is the U.S. Army’s Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space. The demonstration will consist of ground engine testing, a suborbital flight test and an orbital flight test in the summer of 2014. A dedicated nanosatellite launcher will extend the miniature electronics revolution into space by enabling combatant commands to have a launch-on-demand capability.

SWORDS will place nanosatellites into precise low earth orbits to provide capabilities both where and when they are needed. SWORDS will allow the affordable maintenance of constellations of nanosatellites in low earth orbit to provide communications and other services at an unprecedented low level of mission command, regardless of where American forces are deployed. The SWORDS launch vehicle can be transported by C-130 aircraft, and is designed to launch out of multiple ranges, including austere ranges with as little infrastructure as a simple concrete pad.

SWORDS consists of three stages, each powered by four Tridyne pressure-fed engines and using liquid methane fuel and liquid oxygen as an oxidizer. Steering will be accomplished by differential throttling of the engines. SWORD can launch a 25 kilogram payload to a 750 kilometer orbit with 28.5 degrees inclination.

The focus of the SWORDS dedicated nanosatellite launch vehicle is on low cost rather than high performance. The planned cost is $1 million per launch vehicle in production quantities. The ultra-low cost is achieved by careful selection and judicious application of commercial-grade materials and components, as opposed to traditional aerospace-grade components. SWORDS uses a pressure-fed propellant system, eliminating the need for a turbopump. Thrust magnitude steering is used vice engine gimbals. Commercial-off-the-shelf electronic components are used for avionics. Safe, widely available, and inexpensive fuel and oxidizer is used. Range Soldier-Warfighter Operationally Responsive Deployer for Space costs are minimized using a “ship and shoot” concept that inherently reduces the amount of time spent on the range. The innovation of SWORDS is in the systems engineering and integration of current technologies to achieve low cost, low part count and high operational readiness.

SWORDS has been cancelled on 13 March 2014 due to too high costs. The KTE horizontal engine testing will run through completion and then the program was down by September 2014.

Version Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3
SWORDS ? ? ?
Performance (kg) LEO LPEO SSO GTO GEO MolO IP
SWORDS 25 - - - -
No:             Type           Date          LS              Payload


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