Northrop Grumman completed the delivery of an ESPAStar-D spacecraft bus from Gilbert, Arizona, to L3Harris in Melbourne, Florida, recently with the platform supporting the Navigation Technology Satellite-3 (NTS-3) mission for the US Air Force Research Laboratory set to launch in 2022.
According to Northrop Grumman the ESPAStar-D, built to provide rapid and affordable access to space, can accommodate combination of hosted and separable experimental payloads on six common and configurable payload ports.
The bus utilises an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) ring as its primary structure, allowing multiple ESPAStars to be stacked together on a single launch vehicle. The platform can support missions in geosynchronous orbit, low Earth orbit and medium Earth orbit.
The experimental NTS-3 payload is designed to augment space-based position, navigation and timing for military operators and features a modular design capable of supporting a variety of mission needs.
In addition to the NTS-3 mission, Northrop Grumman is partnering with the US Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in its mission to deliver space capabilities with the production of three ESPAStar platforms for Long Duration Propulsive Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (LDPE) missions.
Currently, LDPE-1 is scheduled to launch in 2021 with the Space Test Programme 3 mission.