Customer Profile: Missile Defense Agency

Transporter 5, a dedicated rideshare mission aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9, lifted off from Cape Canaveral Florida in May 2022. Onboard the mission was Spaceflight Inc. customer Missile Defense Agency (MDA), who launched two CubeSat Networked Communications Experiment (CNCE) Block 2 CubeSats. The launch of Block 2 followed the successful launch and deployment of its Block 1 space vehicles last June 2021.

Successful communications with both CubeSats was confirmed days later and MDA has reported the payloads are in good health.

MDA’s CNCE Block 2 Cubesats

The CNCE Block 2 is part of MDA’s Nanosat Testbed Initiative (NTI) and supports the development of MDA’s Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS) and other MDA and DOD space efforts. It uses small, low-cost satellites to demonstrate networked radio communications between nanosatellites while in orbit. Transmitting data between interceptors, sensors and communication systems is critical to a missile defense architecture that must quickly identify, track and destroy incoming enemy missiles before they reach their targets.

“The CubeSat program provides a cost-effective way to test technology critical to the nation’s missile defense system,” said Vice Adm. Jon A. Hill, director, Missile Defense Agency. “Establishing reliable communications links between satellites in orbit means we can relay fire-control-quality adversary missile track data to the warfighter through our Command and Control, Battle Management, and Communications system, so we can engage and destroy those threats.”

CNCE Block 2 will also test a new type of software-defined radio as well as demonstrate technology that supports space-based High Assurance Internet Protocol Encryption (HAIPE). The mission will last 90 days with provisions for a one-year extension.

Spaceflight Mission Manager Wally Lang commented, “We’ve enjoyed a great partnership with the MDA team over the past months working to ensure their payloads get successfully on orbit. Understanding how they’re contributing to a greater future for our industry is inspiring, and we’re looking forward to helping them with their launch transportation needs in the future.”

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