Satellite sidekicks or satellite assassins?

Air Force ANGELS: Satellite Escorts to Take Flight

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory is planning a small experimental satellite that would orbit in close proximity to a host spacecraft and keep tabs on their surrounding space environment.

The laboratory’s space vehicles directorate, located at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, plans to fly the experiment in 2009, according to a request for information sent to industry Nov. 15.

Plans call for awarding up to three study contracts for the Autonomous Nanosatellite Guardian for Evaluating Local Space (Angels) this coming spring, said Tom Caudill, the space surveillance technical area lead at the laboratory. A single company likely would be chosen in 2007 to build the demonstration spacecraft, he said.

The lessons learned on small satellites like XSS-10 and XSS-11 will help the Air Force develop this program. While described as “escorts”, Murdoc guesses this definition of “escort” is more in line with interceptors “escorting” Soviet bombers that strayed too close to US airspace than it is to a frigate “escorting” a friendly ship to protect it from enemy subs.

Meanwhile, everyone wants to know how many other missions (communications hub, in-air refuelling, anti-IED, etc.) the Air Force is going to try to cram into this baby…