The satellite, called SPARC-1, is a demonstrator for several concepts. These have been developed under a cooperation agreement, called NAPA3, between the Swedish Defense Materiel Administration, FMV, and the United States Air Force Research Laboratory, AFRL; the Swedish Defense Research Agency, FOI, is also very involved.
NAPA3 is funded equally by the Swedish Armed Forces and AFRL and is included on the Swedish side in the research and technology development program, FT, and has been ongoing since 2013.
“SPARC-1 is being pushed up by US Air Force and will be controlled from AFRL in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA,” says Mikael Ahlberg, FMV's NAPA3 Project Manager.
SPARC-1 is an important result within NAPA3, where several payloads are to be tested in orbit around the Earth at approximately 500 kilometers altitude.
The satellite is based on ideas of FMV project manager Mikael Ahlberg with the satellite SPARC-1, here temporarily equipped with some 3D-printed payloads, about a software for automatic system configuration for different payloads, with minimal effort and at low cost. The satellite has three payloads.
“For the Swedish part, this is about a so-called SSA camera, Space Situational Awareness, for space mode image.”
The experiment will take pictures of solar reflectors from other satellites using a standard star camera, which is available on all satellites. These create a dash on the photograph because of the exposure time.
“One can then figure out which orbit a satellite has and finally identify which satellite it was, based on a list of known satellites. The military purpose is just about it. To have knowledge of the satellites and when you have these above them. It can then be included as a parameter in the military planning.
The SSA experiment will continue in 2019 and is controlled by FOI.
Other experiments on board SPARC-1 include software-controlled radio, Software Designed Radio, intermediate software developed by AFRL, as well as radio experiments within Blue Force Tracking, which is a NATO term for identifying friendly-minded forces, and military. SAR, Search and Rescue.
“One of several goals of the NAPA3 project is to build a satellite for the experiments. The Americans also suggested to postpone it. It was an exciting bonus for all of us and for the analysis,” says Mikael Ahlberg.