U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory prepares DSX spacecraft for launch

The AFRL DSX flight experiment will conduct new research to advance DOD’s understanding of the processes governing the Van Allen radiation belts and the effect they have on spacecraft components.

Jun 26th, 2019
The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Demonstration and Science Experiments, or DSX, spacecraft in the final preparation stages before shipment to Cape Canaveral, Fla. for launch on a Space X Falcon Heavy Rocket.
The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Demonstration and Science Experiments, or DSX, spacecraft in the final preparation stages before shipment to Cape Canaveral, Fla. for launch on a Space X Falcon Heavy Rocket.United States Air Force

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. - Air Force Research Laboratory engineers have completed the final assembly and integration of the Demonstration and Science Experiments, or DSX, spacecraft in preparation for its placement on the first-ever Department of Defense SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle.

The DoD Space Test Program mission, or STP-2, managed by the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, successfully launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, June 24.

The AFRL DSX flight experiment will conduct new research to advance DOD’s understanding of the processes governing the Van Allen radiation belts and the effect they have on spacecraft components.

DSX’s elliptical path in medium Earth orbit, or MEO, will increase understanding of this orbital regime and advance our understanding of the interplay between waves and particles that underlie radiation belt dynamics, enabling better specification, forecasting and mitigation. This will ultimately enhance the nation’s capability to field resilient space systems.

DSX’s mission is different from most other Air Force flight experiments as it is a purely scientific mission. The spacecraft is equipped with a unique suite of technologies such as space weather sensors and graphite antenna booms used to conduct experiments with very-low frequency radio waves. DSX has two sets of immense, deployable booms due to the large antenna requirements of these experiments. One set extends 80 meters tip-to-tip and the other extends 16 meters tip-to-tip, making the DSX spacecraft one of the largest deployable structures in orbit.

“The space domain has never been more important to our nation than it is today,” said Maj. Gen. William Cooley, AFRL commander. “The DSX satellite experiment will greatly increase our understanding of the environment spacecraft operate in and will give us the knowledge to build even better satellites to protect and defend our space assets. I am immensely proud of the AFRL scientists, engineers and technicians that conceived and built the DSX satellite.”

For more information, visit: www.afresearchlab.com.

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