Orbital Express test mission could resume after all
Posted: July 10, 2007
Senior military leaders have decided to postpone shutting down the Pentagon's Orbital Express mission to give U.S. Air Force officials a chance to propose additional demonstrations, the mission's program manager said Tuesday.
Air Force Lt. Col. Fred Kennedy said he received orders late last week to put a hold on plans to decommission the mission's two satellites.
Orbital Express is managed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon's primary research and development division.
The U.S. Defense Department is reviewing additional tests that could be added to the mission, which wrapped up three months of operations in late June. Earlier demonstrations included refueling, part replacements, and advanced rendezvous and docking techniques.
Kennedy told Spaceflight Now he expects to receive the results of the review Thursday. A decision on whether to extend the mission could also come Thursday.
The two craft were scheduled to be turned off on Saturday after separating to a distance of 1,000 kilometers, or about 600 miles.
Orbital Express consists of ASTRO, a robotic servicing satellite built by Boeing Phantom Works, and NextSat, which fills the role of a client satellite and supply depot.
ASTRO still contains more than 300 pounds of propellant. That is enough fuel to continue operating the mission for the foreseeable future, Kennedy said.
Both ASTRO and NextSat are designed to work for up to one year in orbit.