Lift and Mate Operations Complete for Space Test Program 3, Now Targeted for Dec. 5

Teams prepare to lift the STP-3 spacecraft and attach it to the top of ULA's Atlas V rocket.
The Space Test Program-3 (STP-3) mission for the U.S. Space Force’s (USSF) Space Systems Command (SSC) is mounted atop its ride to space, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket, in preparation for launch. STP-3 will host NASA’s Laser Communication Relay Demonstration (LCRD). LCRD will send and receive data over infrared lasers at approximately 1.2 gigabits per second from geosynchronous orbit to Earth and seeks to make operational laser communications a reality. Photo Credit: United Launch Alliance

NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) moved one step closer to launch on Monday, Nov. 22, after a team of engineers fastened the payload fairing containing its host satellite to a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 551 rocket. Launch is now targeted for Dec. 5, 2021, due to inclement weather during launch vehicle processing.

Teams at Astrotech Space Operations Payload Processing Facility in Titusville, Florida, spent several weeks preparing the satellite before moving it to the United Launch Alliance’s Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at nearby Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS) for the lift and mate operations.

The Space Test Program-3 (STP-3) mission for the U.S. Space Force’s (USSF) Space Systems Command (SSC) is mounted atop its ride to space, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket, in preparation for launch. Photo credit: United Launch Alliance

Inside the VIF, a team of engineers fastened the payload fairing, which houses the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Space Test Program Satellite-6 (STPSat-6) spacecraft. LCRD is hosted on STPSat-6. The mission is scheduled to launch on Dec. 5 from Launch Complex 41 on CCSFS, with a two-hour launch window beginning at 4:04 a.m. EST.

The fully stacked rocket and payload stands 196 feet tall and is anticipated to roll out on a mobile launch platform from the VIF to the launch pad on Dec. 3. The rocket’s Centaur second stage and spacecraft will remain attached until 4 minutes, 33 seconds after launch, with deployment of STPSat-6 scheduled about 6 hours, 30 minutes after launch.

NASA’s LCRD payload, hosted on STPSat-6, is about the size of a king-sized mattress and seeks to make operational laser communications a reality. As space missions generate and collect more data, higher bandwidth communications technologies are needed to bring data home, and laser communications systems offer higher bandwidth in a smaller package that uses less power. LCRD will send and receive data over infrared lasers at approximately 1.2 gigabits per second from geosynchronous orbit to Earth.

LCRD is led by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Partners include NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and the MIT Lincoln Laboratory. LCRD is funded through NASA’s Technology Demonstration Missions program, part of the Space Technology Mission Directorate, and the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program at NASA Headquarters.

To learn more about the STP-3 launch, visit: www.ulalaunch.com. To stay updated about LCRD and laser communications, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/lasercomms.

Space Test Program 3 Launch Update

United Launch Alliance (ULA) is now targeting Dec. 4 to launch the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Space Test Program Satellite-6 (STPSat-6) spacecraft, which hosts NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD). The two-hour launch window runs 4:04 – 6:04 a.m. EST. STPSat-6 is part of the Space Test Program 3, or STP-3, mission which will launch on a ULA Atlas V 551 rocket from Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

The LCRD technology demonstration is testing an enhanced communication capability called laser communications, which will enable space missions to generate and collect more data. The payload is the size of a king size mattress and will send and receive data via infrared lasers at approximately 1.2 gigabits per second from geosynchronous orbit to Earth. Laser communications systems offer higher bandwidth in a smaller package that uses less power.

To learn more about STP-3, visit: www.ulalaunch.com.

To stay updated about LCRD and laser communications, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/lasercomms.

Launch Date Set for NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration

NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) will launch aboard the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Space Test Program Satellite-6 (STPSat-6) spacecraft, targeted for Monday, Nov. 22, 2021 on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket from Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The LCRD technology demonstration is a step towards making operational laser, or optical, communications a reality. As space missions generate and collect more data, higher bandwidth communications technologies are needed to send it all back home. Laser communications will significantly benefit missions by increasing bandwidth 10 to 100 times more than radio frequency systems.

LCRD will implement various laser experiments to test the technology’s functionality and capabilities. Technology demonstrations like LCRD will enable the use of laser communications systems for future missions as NASA works to establish a robust presence on the Moon and prepares for crewed missions to Mars.

STPSat-6 is part of the third Space Test Program, or STP-3. To learn more about STP-3, visit: www.ulalaunch.com.

To stay updated about LCRD and laser communications, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/lasercomms.