Encyclopedia Astronautica

American military strategic defense satellite. One launch, 1990.02.14, USA 51. The Low-power Atmospheric Compensation Experiment was part of a dual payload with RME carrying laser defense experiments.

LACE was built by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) to act as a target for ground lasers to investigate atmospheric distortion and compensation methods.

The spacecraft was gravity gradient stabilized with no attitude control thrusters. Low-power lasers were beamed from the Air Force Maui Optical Station (AMOS) and received by on-board IR and phased detectors. A laser locked onto a reflector mounted on a 46 meter boom to acquire the satellite. The sensor array returned data on the laser coverage, allowing the laser's adaptive optics to be adjusted, compensating for atmospheric distortion.

NCST developed, launched and operated the Low-power Atmospheric Compensation Experiment (LACE) satellite. The LACE satellite was integrated with a USAF relay-mirror experiment payload and mounted atop a Delta II rocket for a successful launch in February 1990 from Cape Canaveral. The LACE satellite carried four experiments:

  • Sensor field for ground based adaptive optics evaluation in the infrared, visible and pulsed wavelengths (for the Strategic Defense Initiatives Office). LACE carried visible, IR and phased laser sensors. They were on booms and panels extending from the 1.4 x 1.4 x 2.4 meter main body. In total, there were 210 laser sensors.
  • Ultra-Violet Plume Imaging (UVPI) tracking experiment (also for SDIO). This tracked rocket plumes and used two CCD cameras.
  • Optical Radiation Detection experiment (for Aerospace Corporation)
  • Background neutron environment measurements for decoy detection experiment (for the US Army). This instrument monitored background levels of neutron radiation in order to be able to discriminate between warheads and decoys.

AKA: Low-power Atmospheric Compensation Experiment.
Gross mass: 1,430 kg (3,150 lb).
Height: 2.40 m (7.80 ft).
First Launch: 1990.02.14.
Number: 1 .

More... - Chronology...

Associated Countries
See also
  • Delta The Delta launch vehicle was America's longest-lived, most reliable, and lowest-cost space launch vehicle. Development began in 1955 and it continued in service in the 21st Century despite numerous candidate replacements. More...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Delta American orbital launch vehicle. The Delta launch vehicle was America's longest-lived, most reliable, and lowest-cost space launch vehicle. Delta began as Thor, a crash December 1955 program to produce an intermediate range ballistic missile using existing components, which flew thirteen months after go-ahead. Fifteen months after that, a space launch version flew, using an existing upper stage. The addition of solid rocket boosters allowed the Thor core and Able/Delta upper stages to be stretched. Costs were kept down by using first and second-stage rocket engines surplus to the Apollo program in the 1970's. Continuous introduction of new 'existing' technology over the years resulted in an incredible evolution - the payload into a geosynchronous transfer orbit increasing from 68 kg in 1962 to 3810 kg by 2002. Delta survived innumerable attempts to kill the program and replace it with 'more rationale' alternatives. By 2008 nearly 1,000 boosters had flown over a fifty-year career, and cancellation was again announced. More...
  • Delta 2 6000 American orbital launch vehicle. The Delta 6000 series used the Castor 4A strap-ons with the ultimate Extra Extended Long Tank core with RS-27 engine. More...
  • Delta 6920-8 American orbital launch vehicle. Three stage vehicle consisting of 9 x Castor 4A + 1 x EELT Thor/RS-27+ 1 x Delta K with 2.4 m (8 foot) diameter fairing) More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • NRL American manufacturer of rockets and spacecraft. Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, DC, USA. More...
  • SDIO American agency overseeing development of spacecraft. Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (renamed the BMDO), USA. More...

  • McDowell, Jonathan, Jonathan's Space Home Page (launch records), Harvard University, 1997-present. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • JPL Mission and Spacecraft Library, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 1997. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • McDowell, Jonathan, Launch Log, October 1998. Web Address when accessed: here.

Associated Launch Sites
  • Cape Canaveral America's largest launch center, used for all manned launches. Today only six of the 40 launch complexes built here remain in use. Located at or near Cape Canaveral are the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, used by NASA for Saturn V and Space Shuttle launches; Patrick AFB on Cape Canaveral itself, operated the US Department of Defense and handling most other launches; the commercial Spaceport Florida; the air-launched launch vehicle and missile Drop Zone off Mayport, Florida, located at 29.00 N 79.00 W, and an offshore submarine-launched ballistic missile launch area. All of these take advantage of the extensive down-range tracking facilities that once extended from the Cape, through the Caribbean, South Atlantic, and to South Africa and the Indian Ocean. More...
  • Cape Canaveral LC17B Delta launch complex. Part of a dual launch pad complex built for the Thor ballistic missile program in 1956. Upgraded over the decades for use with Thor, Delta, Delta II, and Delta III launch vehicles, it remained in use for over half a century. More...

LACE Chronology

1990 February 14 - . 16:15 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC17B. LV Family: Delta. Launch Vehicle: Delta 6920-8. LV Configuration: Delta 6920-8 D192.
  • USA 51 - . Payload: LACE. Mass: 1,430 kg (3,150 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: SDIO. Class: Military. Type: Strategic defense satellite. Spacecraft: LACE. Decay Date: 2000-05-24 . USAF Sat Cat: 20496 . COSPAR: 1990-015A. Apogee: 480 km (290 mi). Perigee: 463 km (287 mi). Inclination: 43.1000 deg. Period: 94.00 min. Low-power Atmospheric Compensation Experiment for SDIO. Research and exploration of the upper atmosphere and outer space. The McDonnell Douglas Corporation has provided the following information for its launch of the Losat spacecraft on 14 Feb 1990: LACE spacecraft (Losat-L), launch time 1615:00.626 GMT, ETR Launch Complex 17. Programmed orbital parameters 95.6 min, apogee 551 km, inc. 43.1 deg. Evaluate laser beam distortion in space.

Home - Browse - Contact
© / Conditions for Use