Encyclopedia Astronautica
Microstar


American communications technology satellite. 22 launches, 1995.04.03 (Orbcomm F1) to 2008.10.19 (Formosat 3F). Small satellite bus, specially designed for multiple launch by Pegasus or Taurus family launch vehicles.

Notably used for the Orbcomm LEO network for global communications and related spacecraft.

Orbital's MicroStar was a commercially-produced spacecraft bus designed for multiple launch by Orbital's Pegasus or Taurus launch vehicles. MicroStar supported payloads up to 68 kg and provides a three to five-year mission life. The baseline bus was comprised of three rings stacked together vertically -- a core ring housing all primary spacecraft bus systems and a payload support module consisting of two rings and a payload mounting shelf. Payloads requiring different depths could be accommodated by using fewer rings, or by creating a custom ring. The open avionics architecture, stackable mechanical design and scalable spacecraft design maximize payload performance and flexibility.

Using a production line approach for assembly and testing, Orbital delivered over 38 MicroStar spacecraft, including 26 ORBCOMM satellites launched in 10 months in 1995-1996. This approach provided cost and schedule advantages through the use of mature designs, familiar manufacturing and test equipment, dedicated and experienced personnel, and established vendor sources. The production line remained in place to support ORBCOMM spares and individual MicroStar missions such as T1 and MUBLCOM. NASA's QuikTOMS spacecraft also took advantage of this production line.

Customers could purchase the MicroStar spacecraft alone, or as part of a turn-key service that includes operations and data delivery as well. For the OrbView-1 and OrbView-2 programs, Orbital provided end-to-end payload services. The company produced the satellite bus, integrated two payloads, and launched the satellite on Pegasus. Orbital conducted mission operations from its own ground station delivering data to principal investigators via direct downlink and the Internet. H

The MicroStar platform was originally developed to support the ORBCOMM wireless data communications system, which provided real-time, mobile, two-way data and messaging communications services worldwide. The first three MicroStar units, ORBCOMM FM-1&-2 and the OrbView-1 remote sensing satellite, were launched on a single Pegasus in April 1995.

Core Technical Specifications

  • Bus Dry Mass: 58.6 kg
  • Payload Mass Capability: 68.0 kg
  • Redundancy: Single string
  • Orbit: 700-1,000 km, all inclinations
  • Launch Vehicle Compatibility: Pegasus, Taurus, SELVS I and II
  • Typical Mission Lifetime: 3-5 years
  • Delivery: 24 Months ARO
  • Bus Dimensions (Diameter x Height): 104 x 16.5 cm
  • Payload Support Module Dimensions (Diameter x Height): 104 x 33 cm
  • Construction: AlBeMet/Al Honeycomb
  • Shape: Dual-faced cylinder
  • Power Subsystem: Payload Power: 50 W orbit average; Bus Voltage: 14 VDC unreg, 28 V reg; Solar Arrays: 2 GaAs; Batteries: 10 A-hr NiH2 CPVs
  • Attitude Control Subsystem: Stability Mode 3-axis; Pointing Capabilities: Control . 0.6; Knowledge. < 1; Rate/Stability <0.01/sec
  • Command & Data Handling Subsystem: Flight Processor 68302; Rad Tolerant 15 K rad; Data Storage Capacity 3 MB; Interface Architecture . RS-422/RS-485; S-Band Uplink/Downlink Rates 2 Kbps/2 Mbps
Options
  • Custom structural ring configuration for flexible payload accommodations
  • Increased power (up to 270W BOL) provided by second set of solar arrays for certain orbit/payload combinations
  • 1553/1773 payload data interface to accommodate existing high-level interfaces
  • Reduced pointing accuracy function (10 accuracy per axis) for missions requiring less precision
  • Payload data storage enhancement (256 MB of storage)
  • Propellant capacity of 26 kg hydrazine with 4 thrusters of 0.9 N each for orbit maintenance
  • Mission operations and data delivery for two years

Gross mass: 43 kg (94 lb).
First Launch: 1995.04.03.
Last Launch: 2008.10.19.
Number: 22 .

More... - Chronology...


Associated Countries
See also
  • Minotaur Minotaur was developed for the US Air Force's Orbital/Suborbital Program (OSP) as a low-cost, four-stage Space Launch Vehicle (SLV) using a combination of government-supplied surplus Minuteman II ICBM motors and proven Orbital space launch technologies. Proposed growth versions would use surplus Peacekeeper rocket stages. More...
  • Pegasus Privately-funded, air-launched winged light satellite launcher. More...
  • Taurus Pad-launched launch vehicle using Pegasus upper stages and Castor-120 first stage. More...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Pegasus American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Privately-funded, air-launched winged light satellite launcher. More...
  • Taurus American all-solid orbital launch vehicle. Pad-launched launch vehicle using Pegasus upper stages and Castor-120 first stage. First launch used slightly larger Peacekeeper ICBM first stage instead of Castor-120. Under a 2002 contract from Boeing, Orbital developed a three-stage version of Taurus to serve as the interceptor boost vehicles for the US government's missile intercept system. The firm portion of the company's contract, awarded in early 2002, was valued at $450 million and extended through 2007. More...
  • Pegasus XL American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Uprated version of Pegasus air-launched winged light satellite launcher. 4 stage vehicle consisting of 1 x L-1011 + 1 x Pegasus XL stage 1 + 1 x Orion 50XL + 1 x Orion 38. More...
  • Pegasus H American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Four stage vehicle consisting of 1 x L-1011 + 1 x Orion 50S + 1 x Orion 50 + 1 x Orion 38 More...
  • Pegasus XL/HAPS American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Five stage version consisting of 1 x L-1011 + 1 x Pegasus XL stage 1 + 1 x Orion 50XL + 1 x Orion 38 + 1 x HAPS More...
  • Minotaur 1 American all-solid orbital launch vehicle. Orbital launch vehicle consisting of a surplus Minuteman M55A1 first stage, Minuteman SR19 second stage, and new Orion 50XL third stage, Orion 38 fourth stage, and optional HAPS fifth stage for velocity trim and multiple payload deployment. Payload 580 kg to an 185 km, 28.5 degree orbit from Cape Canaveral; 310 kg to a 740 km sun-synchronous orbit from Vandenberg. More...
  • Minotaur American all-solid orbital launch vehicle. Minotaur was developed for the US Air Force's Orbital/Suborbital Program (OSP) as a low-cost, four-stage Space Launch Vehicle (SLV) using a combination of government-supplied surplus Minuteman II ICBM motors and proven Orbital space launch technologies. The Minotaur 4 version used surplus Peacekeeper rocket stages. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • Orbcomm American agency overseeing development of spacecraft. Orbital Communications Corp, Dulles, USA. More...

Associated Programs
  • Orbcomm Orbcomm was a commercial venture to provide global messaging services using a constellation of 26 low-Earth orbiting satellites. More...

Bibliography
  • McDowell, Jonathan, Jonathan's Space Home Page (launch records), Harvard University, 1997-present. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • McDowell, Jonathan, Jonathan's Space Report (Internet Newsletter), Harvard University, Weekly, 1989 to Present. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • JPL Mission and Spacecraft Library, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 1997. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • NASA GSFC Orbital Parameters,
  • NASA/GSFC Orbital Information Group Website, Web Address when accessed: here.
  • Space-Launcher.com, Orbital Report News Agency. Web Address when accessed: here.

Associated Launch Sites
  • Vandenberg Vandenberg Air Force Base is located on the Central Coast of California about 240 km northwest of Los Angeles. It is used for launches of unmanned government and commercial satellites into polar orbit and intercontinental ballistic missile test launches toward the Kwajalein Atoll. More...
  • Point Arguello WADZ Air-launched rocket drop zone known to have been used for 28 launches from 1990 to 2007, reaching up to 4539 kilometers altitude. More...
  • Wallops Island DZ Air-launched rocket drop zone known to have been used for 6 launches from 1996 to 1999, reaching up to 834 kilometers altitude. More...
  • Kwajalein DZ Air-launched rocket drop zone known to have been used for 1 launch in 2000, reaching up to 641.4927 kilometers altitude. More...

Microstar Chronology


1995 April 3 - . 13:48 GMT - . Launch Site: Point Arguello WADZ. Launch Pad: 36.0 N x 123.0 W. Launch Platform: L-1011. LV Family: Pegasus. Launch Vehicle: Pegasus H. LV Configuration: Pegasus H F8.
  • Orbcomm F1 - . Payload: Orbcomm s/n FM1. Mass: 40 kg (88 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: Orbcomm. Program: Orbcomm. Class: Communications. Type: Civilian communications satellite. Spacecraft: Microstar. USAF Sat Cat: 23545 . COSPAR: 1995-017A. Apogee: 747 km (464 mi). Perigee: 728 km (452 mi). Inclination: 69.9800 deg. Period: 99.56 min. Summary: Commercial communications testbed. Plane F. Ascending node 199.1 degrees..
  • Orbcomm F2 - . Payload: Orbcomm s/n FM2. Mass: 40 kg (88 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: Orbcomm. Program: Orbcomm. Class: Communications. Type: Civilian communications satellite. Spacecraft: Microstar. USAF Sat Cat: 23546 . COSPAR: 1995-017B. Apogee: 747 km (464 mi). Perigee: 728 km (452 mi). Inclination: 69.9800 deg. Period: 99.56 min. Summary: Commercial communications testbed. Plane F. Ascending node 198.5 degrees..
  • Orbview-1 - . Payload: Microlab 1. Mass: 74 kg (163 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: Orbimage. Program: Orbview. Class: Earth. Type: Atmosphere satellite. Spacecraft: Microstar. USAF Sat Cat: 23547 . COSPAR: 1995-017C. Apogee: 747 km (464 mi). Perigee: 733 km (455 mi). Inclination: 70.0000 deg. Period: 99.60 min. Summary: Lightning mapper; GPS radio occultation..

1997 December 23 - . 19:11 GMT - . Launch Site: Wallops Island DZ. Launch Pad: 37.0 N x 72.0 W. Launch Platform: L-1011. LV Family: Pegasus. Launch Vehicle: Pegasus XL/HAPS. LV Configuration: Pegasus XL/HAPS F19.
  • Orbcomm A1 - . Payload: Orbcomm s/n FM5. Nation: USA. Agency: Orbcomm. Manufacturer: Germantown. Program: Orbcomm. Class: Communications. Type: Civilian communications satellite. Spacecraft: Microstar. USAF Sat Cat: 25112 . COSPAR: 1997-084A. Apogee: 823 km (511 mi). Perigee: 812 km (504 mi). Inclination: 45.0300 deg. Period: 101.26 min. Summary: Plane A. Ascending node 297.7 degrees..
  • Orbcomm A3 - . Payload: Orbcomm s/n FM7. Nation: USA. Agency: Orbcomm. Manufacturer: Germantown. Program: Orbcomm. Class: Communications. Type: Civilian communications satellite. Spacecraft: Microstar. USAF Sat Cat: 25114 . COSPAR: 1997-084C. Apogee: 822 km (510 mi). Perigee: 813 km (505 mi). Inclination: 45.0300 deg. Period: 101.26 min. Summary: Plane A. Ascending node 301 degrees..
  • Orbcomm A8 - . Payload: Orbcomm s/n FM12. Nation: USA. Agency: Orbcomm. Manufacturer: Germantown. Program: Orbcomm. Class: Communications. Type: Civilian communications satellite. Spacecraft: Microstar. USAF Sat Cat: 25119 . COSPAR: 1997-084H. Apogee: 823 km (511 mi). Perigee: 812 km (504 mi). Inclination: 45.0200 deg. Period: 101.26 min. Summary: Plane A. Ascending node 301.2 degrees..
  • Orbcomm A5 - . Payload: Orbcomm s/n FM9. Nation: USA. Agency: Orbcomm. Manufacturer: Germantown. Program: Orbcomm. Class: Communications. Type: Civilian communications satellite. Spacecraft: Microstar. USAF Sat Cat: 25116 . COSPAR: 1997-084E. Apogee: 822 km (510 mi). Perigee: 814 km (505 mi). Inclination: 45.0200 deg. Period: 101.26 min. Summary: Plane A. Ascending node 301 degrees..
  • Orbcomm A6 - . Payload: Orbcomm s/n FM10. Nation: USA. Agency: Orbcomm. Manufacturer: Germantown. Program: Orbcomm. Class: Communications. Type: Civilian communications satellite. Spacecraft: Microstar. USAF Sat Cat: 25117 . COSPAR: 1997-084F. Apogee: 823 km (511 mi). Perigee: 812 km (504 mi). Inclination: 45.0200 deg. Period: 101.26 min. Summary: Plane A. Ascending node 301.2 degrees..
  • Orbcomm A4 - . Payload: Orbcomm s/n FM8. Nation: USA. Agency: Orbcomm. Manufacturer: Germantown. Program: Orbcomm. Class: Communications. Type: Civilian communications satellite. Spacecraft: Microstar. USAF Sat Cat: 25115 . COSPAR: 1997-084D. Apogee: 823 km (511 mi). Perigee: 813 km (505 mi). Inclination: 45.0200 deg. Period: 101.26 min. Summary: Plane A. Ascending node 300.5 degrees..
  • Orbcomm A2 - . Payload: Orbcomm s/n FM6. Nation: USA. Agency: Orbcomm. Manufacturer: Germantown. Program: Orbcomm. Class: Communications. Type: Civilian communications satellite. Spacecraft: Microstar. USAF Sat Cat: 25113 . COSPAR: 1997-084B. Apogee: 822 km (510 mi). Perigee: 813 km (505 mi). Inclination: 45.0300 deg. Period: 101.26 min. Summary: Plane A. Ascending node 300.7 degrees..
  • Orbcomm A7 - . Payload: Orbcomm s/n FM11. Nation: USA. Agency: Orbcomm. Manufacturer: Germantown. Program: Orbcomm. Class: Communications. Type: Civilian communications satellite. Spacecraft: Microstar. USAF Sat Cat: 25118 . COSPAR: 1997-084G. Apogee: 823 km (511 mi). Perigee: 813 km (505 mi). Inclination: 45.0200 deg. Period: 101.26 min. Summary: Plane A. Ascending node 301.2 degrees..

1998 February 10 - . 13:20 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg 576E. LV Family: Pegasus. Launch Vehicle: Taurus 2210. LV Configuration: Taurus 2210 T2.
  • Orbcomm G1 - . Payload: Orbcomm s/n FM3. Nation: USA. Agency: Orbcomm. Manufacturer: Germantown. Program: Orbcomm. Class: Communications. Type: Civilian communications satellite. Spacecraft: Microstar. USAF Sat Cat: 25158 . COSPAR: 1998-007B. Apogee: 874 km (543 mi). Perigee: 781 km (485 mi). Inclination: 107.9900 deg. Period: 101.46 min. Summary: Plane G. Ascending node 297.9 degrees..
  • Orbcomm G2 - . Payload: Orbcomm s/n FM4. Nation: USA. Agency: Orbcomm. Manufacturer: Germantown. Program: Orbcomm. Class: Communications. Type: Civilian communications satellite. Spacecraft: Microstar. USAF Sat Cat: 25159 . COSPAR: 1998-007C. Apogee: 871 km (541 mi). Perigee: 783 km (486 mi). Inclination: 107.9900 deg. Period: 101.45 min. Summary: Plane G. Ascending node 298.1 degrees..

1999 May 18 - . 05:09 GMT - . Launch Site: Point Arguello WADZ. Launch Pad: 36.0 N x 123.0 W. Launch Platform: L-1011. LV Family: Pegasus. Launch Vehicle: Pegasus XL/HAPS. LV Configuration: Pegasus XL/HAPS F27.
  • MUBLCOM - . Nation: USA. Agency: USA. Manufacturer: Germantown. Class: Communications. Type: Military communications satellite. Spacecraft: Microstar. USAF Sat Cat: 25736 . COSPAR: 1999-026B. Apogee: 745 km (462 mi). Perigee: 738 km (458 mi). Inclination: 97.7000 deg. Period: 99.70 min. After deploying the TERRIERS satellite, the conical Payload Adapter Fitting (1998-26E) was jettisoned at 05:21 GMT, leaving the disk-shaped MUBLCOM satellite attached to the Pegasus XL PRIMEX HAPS-Lite stage. The second HAPS burn at 05:22 GMT raised apogee to 775 km, followed by a third, apogee burn at 06:10 GMT which circularised the orbit. MUBLCOM was deployed to a 769 km x 776 km x 97.7 degree orbit. The final HAPS burn then placed the depleted HAPS stage in a lower 388 km x 722 km x 97.1 degree disposal orbit. MUBLCOM (Multiple beam Beyond Line-of-sight Communications) was an experimental satellite funded by DARPA and managed by the US Army's Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) at Ft Monmouth, New Jersey. It was built by Orbital Sciences using the Microstar (Orbcomm type) bus and carries a payload testing hand-held radio satellite communications for the armed forces.

    Six years later MUBLCOM was the target for the DART Autonomous Rendezvous Technology mission. On April 16, 2005, DART closed within 100 m of MUBLCOM satellite, then evidently began a series of out-of-control maneuvers resulting in an in-space collission and MUBLCOM being bumped into a 3 to 5 km higher orbit. DART was deorbited while MUBLCOM, still functioned, continued on in space.


2001 September 21 - . 18:49 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg 576E. LV Family: Pegasus. Launch Vehicle: Taurus 2110. LV Configuration: Taurus 2110 T6. FAILURE: A problem a few seconds after first stage separation caused the rocket to go off course; it recovered and the remainder of the stages fired, but final cutoff velocity was too low to reach a sustainable orbit..
  • QuikTOMS - . Mass: 368 kg (811 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: Orbimage. Manufacturer: OSC. Class: Earth. Type: Ionosphere satellite. Spacecraft: Microstar. COSPAR: F010921B. The QuikTOMS satellite was a NASA-GSFC project carrying the TOMS-5 ozone mapper. QuikTOMS used a 168 kg double Microstar bus and was to have replaced TOMS instruments on a delayed Russian weather satellite and the failed ADEOS. The loss of QuikTOMS put a hole in NASA's attempts to monitor the ozone layer.

2006 April 15 - . 01:40 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC8. LV Family: Minotaur. Launch Vehicle: Minotaur 1. LV Configuration: Minotaur 1 5.
  • Formosat 3A FM6 - . Mass: 70 kg (154 lb). Nation: Taiwan. Agency: NSPO. Manufacturer: OSC. Class: Technology. Type: Navigation technology satellite. Spacecraft: MicroStar. USAF Sat Cat: 29047 . COSPAR: 2006-011A. Apogee: 538 km (334 mi). Perigee: 496 km (308 mi). Inclination: 72.0000 deg. Period: 95.00 min. FORMOSAT-3 consisted of six small 62 kg Orbcomm-type satellites with GPS receivers which were to measure atmospheric conditions by studying the effect of the atmosphere on GPS satellite signals passing through it. The satellites, also known as COSMIC (Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate), each raised their orbits over several months, all but one reaching operational orbits of around 770 x 840 km by September 2007.
  • Formosat 3B FM1 - . Mass: 70 kg (154 lb). Nation: Taiwan. Agency: NSPO. Manufacturer: OSC. Class: Technology. Type: Navigation technology satellite. Spacecraft: MicroStar. USAF Sat Cat: 29048 . COSPAR: 2006-011B. Apogee: 541 km (336 mi). Perigee: 500 km (310 mi). Inclination: 72.0000 deg. Period: 95.00 min.
  • Formosat 3C FM5 - . Mass: 70 kg (154 lb). Nation: Taiwan. Agency: NSPO. Manufacturer: OSC. Class: Technology. Type: Navigation technology satellite. Spacecraft: MicroStar. USAF Sat Cat: 29049 . COSPAR: 2006-011C. Apogee: 681 km (423 mi). Perigee: 567 km (352 mi). Inclination: 72.0000 deg. Period: 97.20 min.
  • Formosat 3D FM3 - . Mass: 70 kg (154 lb). Nation: Taiwan. Agency: NSPO. Manufacturer: OSC. Class: Technology. Type: Navigation technology satellite. Spacecraft: MicroStar. USAF Sat Cat: 29050 . COSPAR: 2006-011D. Apogee: 538 km (334 mi). Perigee: 496 km (308 mi). Inclination: 72.0000 deg. Period: 95.00 min. Summary: Became stuck in intermediate 675 x 750 km due to solar panel failure..
  • Formosat 3E FM4 - . Mass: 70 kg (154 lb). Nation: Taiwan. Agency: NSPO. Manufacturer: OSC. Class: Technology. Type: Navigation technology satellite. Spacecraft: MicroStar. USAF Sat Cat: 29051 . COSPAR: 2006-011E. Apogee: 538 km (334 mi). Perigee: 496 km (308 mi). Inclination: 72.0000 deg. Period: 95.00 min.
  • Formosat 3F FM2 - . Mass: 70 kg (154 lb). Nation: Taiwan. Agency: NSPO. Manufacturer: OSC. Class: Technology. Type: Navigation technology satellite. Spacecraft: MicroStar. USAF Sat Cat: 29052 . COSPAR: 2006-011F. Apogee: 542 km (336 mi). Perigee: 497 km (308 mi). Inclination: 72.0000 deg. Period: 95.00 min.

2008 October 19 - . 17:47 GMT - . Launch Site: Kwajalein DZ. Launch Pad: 7.7 N x 167.7 E. Launch Platform: L-1011. LV Family: Pegasus. Launch Vehicle: Pegasus XL.
  • IBEX - . Mass: 107 kg (235 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: NASA. Manufacturer: OSC. Class: Astronomy. Type: X-ray astronomy satellite. Spacecraft: Microstar. USAF Sat Cat: 33401 . COSPAR: 2008-051A. Apogee: 299,827 km (186,303 mi). Perigee: 12,415 km (7,714 mi). Inclination: 14.0000 deg. Period: 10,865.20 min. Summary: Interstellar Boundary Explorer. Mission was to map, from its high earth orbit, the boundary of the heliosphere, the point at the limits of the solar system where the solar wind is overcome by the interstellar medium..

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