After repeated delays to iron out a few problems and then bad weather and ground equipment issues delaying the launch earlier this month, the Air Force Research Lab’s TacSat-3 is on-orbit. An Orbital Science’s Minotaur I booster blasted off from NASA’s Wallops Island, Va., regional launch facility, May 19 at 7:55 p.m. EDT, carrying TacSat-3 and NASA payloads into low Earth orbit. The 880-pound TacSat-3 is the first operationally responsive space mission to comprise payloads based on recommendations from combatant commander. The satellite’s program team successfully communicated with the satellite about 90 minutes after the booster lifted off. “For the next two to three weeks, the TacSat-3 project team will be conducting on-orbit checkout of the spacecraft to ensure optimum performance,” said Dr. Thomas Cooley, TacSat-3 program manager with AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland AFB, N.M. (Space and Missile Systems Center release; Kirtland follow-up release)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.