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This U.S. Giant Satellite Is a Record-Breaker, Completes Over 1,300 Experiments

Some space missions can accomplish more in a short time than others in decades. Perhaps not as flashy as the more popular satellites, the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Demonstration and Science Experiments (DSX) satellite mission is a great achiever: in only 2 years, more than 1,300 experiments were conducted with its help.
The Demonstration and Science Experiments satellite was equipped with long antenna booms 7 photos
DSX satellite illustrationDSX DevelopmentVan Allen radiation beltsDSX RenderingNTS-1, NTS-2, and NTS-3 SatellitesNTS-3 Rendering
The DSX might have accomplished all of this in only 2 years, but it took 16 years to develop and test it, prior to this. When it was ready, the satellite was almost the size of a football field and became “the largest unmanned self-supporting structure ever put into orbit”, according to AFRL officials. It was launched in 2019, from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, with the main purpose of developing AFRL’s knowledge about the Medium Earth Orbit (MEO).

This orbit is connected to the Van Allen Radiation Belts, which represent a challenge because of the charged particles that can became a radiation hazard, at high speeds. Basically, these are radiation belts that can potentially affect spacecraft electronics and the Lower Earth Orbit, which is why it’s important to understand more about MEO.

DSX consisted of 4 main experiment suites. The Wave Particle Interaction Experiment was the first one, dedicated to the study of particle behavior. The second one, the Space Weather Experiment, focused on the locations and intensity range of the different particles that are trapped in the Van Allen Belts. Data collected from these 2 will help adapt future satellites for harsh radiation conditions, as well as develop Radiation Belt Remediation technologies.

The third and fourth experiment suites focused more on spacecraft. The Space Effects Experiment analyzed the degradation of spacecraft components in the MEO environment, while the Adaptive Controls Experiment was dedicated to improving the maneuvering of large orbiting structures, such as the DSX. The information obtained through these 2 suites will be used to further develop advanced spacecraft and AFRL’s flight experiments.

AFRL scientists were proud to have accomplished more than 1,300 experiments with the help of DSX. The large satellite was deactivated earlier this year, on May 31, after a short, but remarkably prolific career on an orbit.

press release
 

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