Monday, February 10, 2014

Wobbling satellites find new use

Air Force crews flew MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers from Creech Air Force Base, Nev., using repurposed commercial satellites during missions in November and December. A team with the 53rd Test Management Group successfully demonstrated inclined orbit satellite capability for MQ-1 and MQ-9 unmanned systems. The aircraft used inclined orbit satellite communications, satellites that lack the fuel to maintain a fixed geostationary location and are allowed to drift into slightly wobbling orbits. To use wobbling satellites, the dish must be able to move, unlike the fixed dish of satellite television providers. MQ-1 and MQ-9 programs have integrated the satellite tracking software and the 53rd Wing developed procedures for continuously updating the satellite tracking data needed. Using inclined orbit satellites is a cost savings. Air Combat Command's latest lease for continental United States commercial SATCOM includes four inclined orbit SATCOM lines at about 50 percent savings over a typical lease. The 53rd TMG falls under the 53rd Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Source: Remotely Piloted Aircraft Capabilities Office, 02/10/14)