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Northrop Grumman delivers ESPAStar bus for US Air Force NTS-3 Mission

2nd July 2021 - 16:00 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

The NTS-3 programme supports the improvement of positioning, navigation and timing services for the US Air Force (USAF)

Northrop Grumman announced on 1 July the successful delivery of an ESPAStar-D spacecraft bus to L3Harris.

The platform supports the Navigation Technology Satellite-3 (NTS-3) mission for the Air Force Research Laboratory set to launch from Cape Canaveral in 2022.

According to a Northrop Grumman statement, the ESPAStar-D is built to provide affordable, rapid access to space and can accommodate combinations of hosted and separable experimental payloads on six common and configurable payload ports.

The bus utilizes 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 (GEO), low Earth orbit (LEO) and medium Earth orbit (MEO).

Blake Bullock, vice president, National Security Space, Tactical Space Systems, at Northrop Grumman, said the ESPAStar platform provides solutions for ‘customers seeking a modular, cost-effective and highly capable spacecraft bus for hosting technology development and operational payloads’.

The experimental NTS-3 payload is designed to augment space-based position, navigation and timing for warfighters and features a modular design capable of supporting various mission needs.

In addition to the NTS-3 mission, Northrop Grumman is partnering with the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (AFSMC) in their mission to deliver resilient and affordable space capabilities with the production of three ESPAStar platforms for Long Duration Propulsive Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) (LDPE) missions. LDPE-1 is scheduled to launch in 2021 with the Space Test Program 3 mission.

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