In early 2009, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) asked Riverside Research to team with Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) and others to resurrect the Multispectral Thermal Imager (MTI) satellite. The satellite was originally sponsored by the US Department of Energy to demonstrate advanced multispectral and thermal imaging, image processing, and associated technologies that could be used in future systems for detecting facilities that produce weapons of mass destruction. The satellite was launched in March of 2000 and achieved many firsts in satellite engineering and remote-sensing science. In 2003, after the system’s three-year goals were met, the satellite was used only occasionally for earth-science missions. NGA then recognized the satellite’s capabilities for other missions and established a team to add the system to their constellation.
The Riverside Research/SNL/Ball Aerospace team of engineers and operators overcame a variety of spacecraft and ground-system anomalies to extend the satellite’s operations and even increase the quantity and quality of data it collects. Through our Modeling and Application Development Laboratory (MAD Lab), Riverside Research assumed mission and daily collection planning for the legacy system within hours by using the Automated Collection Planning Tool (ACPT). As a customizable remote-sensing system that supports mission planning and analysis, sensor and platform modeling, target modeling, collection-strategy development, and collection visualization, the ACPT helped MTI transition from a purely research satellite to a national collection capability.
For several years, Riverside Research has provided significant technical and advisory support to the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office’s TacSat-3 program. TacSat-3 is the third in a series of military reconnaissance satellites designed to demonstrate low-cost, responsive utility to combatant commanders by providing real-time hyperspectral data directly to units in the field. Through our MAD Lab, Riverside Research modified our GOTS software, ACPT, to perform mission and daily collection planning for TacSat-3.
Prior to the launch of TacSat-3, the US Air Force used the ACPT to assess the long-term strategic capability of the satellite to support customers and experiments worldwide. After a year-long experimental phase in orbit, TacSat-3 became fully operational and was the first hyperspectral satellite capable of providing data products within 10 minutes of collection. The ACPT has been used for all mission planning undertakings since the satellite was launched on 19 May 2009. It then transitioned to operations on 12 June 2010, and concluded its operational mission on 15 February 2012.
By providing subject-matter expertise in mission management, data exploitation, and operational architecture, Riverside Research continues to play a key role in delivering operationally relevant space capabilities for the defense of our nation.