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PICOSat (P97-1)

PICOSat (P97-1) [USAF]

The PICOSat (Polymer Battery Experiment / Ionospheric Occulation Experiment / Coherent Electro Magnetic Radio Tomography / Optical Precision Platform Experiment - Satellite) satellite is part of the Department of Defense (DoD) Space Test Program (STP) which is executed by the Air Force. PICOSat is a microsatellite built by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) in Guildford, UK and partially funded through the DoD Foreign Comparative Testing Program.

The PICOSat mission is to fly and operate four DoD scientific payloads demonstrating vibration damping, battery technologies, and performing ionospheric measurements in support of DoD weather databases. An additional objective of PICOSat is to determine if the non-developmental Surrey Microsatellites are capable of providing cost effective and timely spaceflight for DoD space experiments. PICOSat is designed for a minimum of one year of on orbit operations.

PICOSat is 67 kg satellite based on the commercially available SSTL microsatellite bus. PICOSat will fly in a 800 km circular orbit with a 67 degree inclination. PICOSat uses a gravity gradient boom for stabilization while the body mounted solar panels produce an average on orbit power of 22 W. PICOSat does not have any propulsion system on board.

Experiment Payloads:

  • Ultra-Quiet Platform (UQP), developed by the Air Force Research Lab, aims to provide a 10:1 reduction in vibration isolation over a 100 Hz bandwidth between the spacecraft bus and a science payload. This will reduce launch cost and improve performance of space based sensors for military and commercial space systems.
  • Coherent Electromagnetic Radio Tomography (CERTO), developed by the Naval Research Lab, is a space based radio beacon which provides cooperative ionospheric observations with ground receivers. CERTO provides global ionospheric map to aid prediction of radio wave scattering. This knowledge will improve navigation accuracy and communications capacity for military and commercial systems.
  • Ionospheric Occultation Experiment (IOX), developed by the USAF Space and Missile Systems Center, uses a space based dual frequency GPS receiver to measure ionospheric properties. IOX demonstrates remote sensing techniques for future DoD space systems. Improves operational models for ionospheric and thermospheric forecasts.
  • Polymer Battery Experiment (PBEX), developed by Johns Hopkins University, demonstrates the charging and discharging characteristics of polymer batteries in the space environment. PBEX validates use of lightweight, flexible battery technology to decrease cost and weight for future military and commercial space systems.

On-orbit mission control was conducted by the SSTL ground site in Guildford, UK. The U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, CO will operate a backup ground station for PICOSat to increase the amount of experimental data.

Note: the satellite is in some sources erroneously designated "Picosat 9".

Nation: USA
Type / Application: Experimental
Operator: US Air Force (USAF) STP (Space Test Program)
Contractors: SSTL
Configuration: Microsat-70
Propulsion: None
Power: Solar cells, batteries
Mass: 68 kg
Orbit: 790 km × 800 km × 67
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
PICOSat (P97-1) 2001-043B 30.09.2001 Kd LP-1 Athena-1 with Starshine 3, PCSat 1, SAPPHIRE


Further STP missions: