When the U.S. Space Force’s Tactically Responsive Launch-2 (TacRL-2) mission launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base last month it carried a payload designed and built in record time by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).
LLNL provided a three-mirror reflective telescope and sensor for the payload, which was designed, integrated, tested, and delivered within four months of the word “go.”
“We needed a novel design in order to meet the program objectives,” said LLNL project leader John Ganino. “The payload system required a set of three LLNL monolith optics, auto-focus capability, and an electronic control module to interface with the spacecraft.”
TacRL-2 was the first mission led by U.S. Space Force’s new Space and Missile System Center’s (SMC) Space Safari Program, which integrates mature technology and systems to respond quickly to specialized space needs.
LLNL delivered the payload to its partner, Space Dynamics Laboratory, for integration 100 days after the Space Safari Program initiated the project. Together, they delivered a complete demonstration satellite for launch in 11 months, significantly faster than the usual two- to five-year timeframe.
As a concept, tactically responsive launch seeks to introduce speed, agility, and flexibility into the nation’s space program to respond to dynamic changes or operational needs and insert or replace assets in orbit much faster than standard timelines.
With the TacRL-2 launch, the Space Safari Program demonstrated an end-to-end approach to tactical missions by acquiring and integrating the space vehicle, launch vehicle, payloads, and ground elements, as well as conducting on-orbit planning and operator training.
“The Tac-RL-2 project was a huge success for LLNL and our partners,” said Ben Bahney, LLNL’s Space Program leader. “We proved that a motivated and agile interdisciplinary team can design, build, and launch spacecraft on tactically responsive timelines to support the warfighter’s need for new mission capabilities.”