Goodbye, TacSat-3

The Air Force’s experimental Tactical Satellite 3 de-orbited and burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere on Tuesday, ending the spacecraft’s nearly three-year orbital run, announced service space officials. Launched into space on May 19, 2009, the Air Force meant for the reconnaissance satellite to have a one-year on-orbit lifespan for use in experiments with its hyperspectral imagery sensor and other payloads. Instead, TacSat-3 exceeded that timeline by 20 months, transitioning to an operational asset in June 2010 and providing valuable imagery intelligence to combatant commanders across the globe until its operational mission ended on Feb. 15. The satellite produced approximately 100 hyperspectral imagery products per month, according to the officials. (Peterson release) (See also Experiment Gone Right.)