U.S. Army’s Kestrel Eye IIM microsatellite deployed from Space Station
NanoRacks LLC successfully deployed the Kestrel Eye IIM microsatellite on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017, using its Kaber Microsatellite Deployer (Kaber). The 110-pound (50-kilogram) Earth-imaging spacecraft, which is operated by the U.S. Army, is so far the largest satellite deployed by NanoRacks from the International Space Station (ISS).
The satellite was released from the space station on Tuesday morning via the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) airlock. Kaber allows NanoRacks to deploy payloads via JEM with a mass of up to 220 pounds (100 kilograms). Kestrel Eye IIM is the first satellite ejected into space by this deployer.
“Customer demand pushed for larger satellite deployment in low-Earth orbit, so NanoRacks was there to accommodate. We’re thrilled to bring yet another commercial opportunity to the International Space Station, increasing utilization and bringing a new group of customers into our Space Station services,” said NanoRacks CEO Jeffrey Manber.
Built by Maryland Aerospace, Inc., Kestrel Eye IIM (also known as KE2M) is an electro-optical nanosatellite-class Earth-imaging spacecraft. The satellite is designed to deliver near-real-time imagery to support the tactical warfighter.
“Kestrel Eye is a technology demonstrator, but it holds the promise of providing tactical imagery to the soldier on the ground, and to do it responsively, persistently and reliably,” said John R. London III, SMDC Space and Strategic Systems Directorate chief engineer. “This is a game-changing capability for the army because for the first time commanders in the field will be able to control the entire imagery process from end-to-end, from the tasking of the satellite all the way through to the dissemination of the data to the soldiers who need it.”
The KE2M is based on Maryland Aerospace’s MAGICBus platform; its dimensions are 15 × 15 × 38 inches (38 cm × 38 cm × 97 cm). This bus features an integrated command data and handling system, attitude controls and solar arrays.
The KE2M spacecraft is equipped with a medium-resolution electro-optical imaging system, an element of which is a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) telescope. The primary goal of the satellite is to demonstrate that small satellites are viable platforms for providing critical path support to operations and hosting advanced payloads.
Kestrel Eye IIM was delivered to the ISS on Aug. 16, 2017, as part of SpaceX’s CRS-12 mission to the orbiting lab. Now that the satellite is in orbit, checkout operations will be conducted during the first two months, culminating in a technical demonstration.
“The deployment and subsequent demonstrations are the culmination of a long development process. We are all looking forward to those first Kestrel Eye images to show what a satellite of this type can provide for the tactical Army at the leading edge of the fight,” said Wheeler “Chip” Hardy, Kestrel Eye program manager, SMDC Tech Center’s Space and Strategic Systems Directorate.
KE2M is the first spacecraft sent into space as part of the Kestrel Eye program. Up to 30 Kestrel Eye satellites are planned to be launched if the project proves its viability.
Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.