Jeffrey LewisMicrosatellite Propulsion Experiment (MPX)

The Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL/PR) Propulsion Directorate recently held an industry day “to provide specifications for a micro satellite propulsion experiment- development, integration and test, command/control, and flight operations. [sic] The micro satellite propulsion system flight demonstration will include previously unproven flight operations.” An interesting collection of industry types attended the meeting.

Rumor has it that the Microsatellite Propulsion Experiment (MPX) is a Special Access Program (SAP) in the Missile Defense Agency’s classified Advanced Concepts, Evaluation and Systems (ACES) program element. The Deputy for Advanced Systems (AS), who oversees the program at MDA, is Gary Payton. In addition to being a hell of a point guard, he has a long history with space-based interceptors, working on the Defense Department’s Clementine SDI mission.

The nature of the experiment isn’t clear. It may be related to the Microsatellite Propulsion Integration experiment, which I am reasonably sure is funded out of the Air Force budget line for “Rocket Propulsion Component Tech.” (To see the original briefing , you need either a .gov or .mil domain.)

That experiment was designed to “demonstrate long duration firings for Repositioning, Rendezvous, and OCS/DCS” (offensive counterspace/defensive counterspace)—in english, it was designed to test propulsion systems for orbital maneuvers. MPX could be a similar experiment for MDA (maneuvers to position interceptors in space) or the propulsion system may be suitable for a kill vehicle. With all the classification, it’s hard to tell and easy to speculate.

[Side note: MPI is a candidate for the classified Air Force small satellite launch scheduled for 2005.]