Artist Representation of ANGELS Observing the AFSPC-4 Delta-4 Upper Stage Several Hundred Kilometers above GEO.  Credit: Air Force/AFRL

Artist Representation of ANGELS Observing the AFSPC-4 Delta-4 Upper Stage Several Hundred Kilometers above GEO.
Credit: Air Force/AFRL

The Air Force launched two operational satellites and one experimental satellite into near-geosynchronous Earth orbit on July 28 atop a Delta 4 booster lifting off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The AFSPC-4 mission, according to Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James: “These operational and experimental systems will enhance the nation’s ability to monitor and assess events regarding our military and commercial systems. In essence, they will create a space neighborhood watch capability.”

The two operational satellites are part of the recently declassified Air Force Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program, or GSSAP.

Automated Navigation and Guidance Experiment for Local Space (ANGELS)  Credit: Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)

Automated Navigation and Guidance Experiment for Local Space (ANGELS)
Credit: Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)

 ANGELS: clearer picture

The experimental satellite program is known as Automated Navigation and Guidance Experiment for Local Space, or ANGELS, is led by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate headquartered at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.

The ANGELS program examines techniques for providing a clearer picture of the environment around our vital space assets.

Modest but safe distance

The vehicle will begin experiments approximately 30 miles (50 kilometers) away from the upper stage and cautiously progress over several months to tests within several kilometers.

The Air Force will use the results to evolve the ability of future systems to responsively perform SSA from a “modest but safe distance,” according to the AFRL.

Preparing the experimental ANGELS for launch. Credit: Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)

Preparing the experimental ANGELS for launch.
Credit: Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)

The current ANGELS program began in 2007.

The ANGELS spacecraft was lofted as a secondary payload on the AFSPC-4 mission, and it has 1 year of experiments planned.

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