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Lonestar Space Support Vehicle's Successful Mission
by Jason Cutshaw
U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command
December 27, 2023

Lonestar, a U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) tactical space support vehicle on-orbit demonstrator, has successfully completed its mission following an extra six months to gather data and key observations.

Launched on July 1, 2022, and originally slated for a one-year mission, Lonestar was designed to provide space-based situational awareness directly into the hands of the tactical warfighter.

July 1, 2022 - Lonestar, a technology demonstrator designed to provide space-based situational awareness directly into the hands of the tactical warfighter, is prepared for lift off from Mojave Air and Space Port as a payload aboard Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne two-stage orbital air-launch vehicle. LauncherOne was attached to a pylon on the aircraft’s left wing before being launched over the Pacific Ocean from the Boeing 747-400 carrier aircraft, named “Cosmic Girl.” The launch of Lonestar on the Virgin Orbit National System’s LauncherOne rocket was made available by the Department of Defense Space Test Program. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command courtesy photo.)
July 1, 2022 - Lonestar, a technology demonstrator designed to provide space-based situational awareness directly into the hands of the tactical warfighter, is prepared for lift off from Mojave Air and Space Port as a payload aboard Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne two-stage orbital air-launch vehicle. LauncherOne was attached to a pylon on the aircraft’s left wing before being launched over the Pacific Ocean from the Boeing 747-400 carrier aircraft, named “Cosmic Girl.” The launch of Lonestar on the Virgin Orbit National System’s LauncherOne rocket was made available by the Department of Defense Space Test Program. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command courtesy photo.)

“Lonestar was an experimental satellite technology designed to directly warn Soldiers on the ground when global positioning system signals have been disrupted or compromised and provide forward looking situational awareness in anti-access/area denied environments,” said Dr. Sierra L. Smith, an electronics engineer with the USASMDC Space Directorate’s Experimentation and Demonstration Division.

Lonestar completed all of its on-orbit checkouts in the first 30 days and quickly met key technology objectives. It successfully demonstrated new technology for GPS interference warning and utility for tactical users and made multiple new observations that were shared with the positioning, navigation and timing situational awareness community, which includes the defense and intelligence sectors of government and other federal agencies.

“Lonestar was a pathfinder for the Space Development Agency’s PNT situational awareness sensors in the Transport Layer constellation, which will provide data that the Army can process and analyze to support the tactical ground warfighter,” Smith said.

She said SMDC has a need to obtain, process, analyze and disseminate PNT data from SDA satellites to meet Army situational awareness requirements.

“There are opportunities to do more advanced analysis that combines observations to increase confidence and produce more actionable information for the Army ground warfighter,” Smith said. “SMDC made progress in the area of space situational awareness support for the tactical warfighter from the Lonestar technology development effort.”

Lonestar’s on-orbit satellite and payload operations were supported by USASMDC’s payload development laboratory at Redstone Arsenal. The laboratory provided ground systems for command and telemetry to the satellite.

“SMDC’s payload demonstration laboratory provided the ground station and systems for operating the satellite on-orbit,” Smith said. “SMDC also provided hardware-in-the-loop lab to validate the payload technology prior to launch in the PNT resiliency laboratory.”

Development and design work on Lonestar began July 25, 2018, and on-orbit operations ended Nov. 14, 2023, after successfully completing the demonstration objectives

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