Ball Aerospace Turns Over Test Satellite Operations to Air Force

Ball Aerospace's STPSat-3 satellite. (Credit: Ball Aerospace)
Ball Aerospace’s STPSat-3 satellite. (Credit: Ball Aerospace)

BOULDER, Colo (Ball Aerospace PR) — Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. announced on Jan. 10, 2014, that operational control of the Space Test Program Satellite-3 (STPSat-3) has been handed over to the U.S. Air Force as the spacecraft begins its technology demonstration mission.

The Ball-built STPSat-3 launched from Wallops Flight Center in Virginia on November 19, 2013 aboard a Minotaur I, along with 28 CubeSats as part of the Operationally Responsive Space-3 (ORS-3) mission. The spacecraft was fully checked out and operational within 71 hours of launch, nearly three hours ahead of schedule.

Ball designed the Standard Interface Vehicle (SIV), a common spacecraft bus with standard payload interfaces to accelerate Department of Defense space technology demonstrations and to ensure future U.S. space superiority. STPSat-3 is the second SIV developed by Ball which is now part of the company’s Ball Configurable Platform (BCP) spacecraft line. Assembled in only 47 days, STPSat-3 repeatedly demonstrated its ability to add or remove payloads even after the spacecraft bus was completed.

Minotaur I launch. (Credit: NASA)
Minotaur I launch. (Credit: NASA)

Roughly the size of a mini refrigerator, the satellite carries five technology demonstration payloads and a de-orbit module for the Department of Defense, NASA and NOAA.

“We designed the SIV architecture to reduce the cost and time required to access space while maximizing the opportunities for suitable payloads,” said Dave Kaufman, vice president and general manager of Ball’s National Defense business unit. “STPSat-3’s predecessor, STPSat-2, just passed its three-year anniversary on orbit and has proven the robustness of the SIV design.”

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. supports critical missions for national agencies such as the Department of Defense, NASA, NOAA and other U.S. government and commercial entities. The company develops and manufactures spacecraft, advanced instruments and sensors, components, data exploitation systems and RF solutions for strategic, tactical and scientific applications. For more information, visit

Ball Corporation (NYSE: BLL) supplies innovative, sustainable packaging solutions for beverage, food and household products customers, as well as aerospace and other technologies and services primarily for the U.S. government. Ball Corporation and its subsidiaries employ 15,000 people worldwide and reported 2012 sales of more than $8.7 billion. For more information, visit, or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter.


Space Test Program’s Standard Interface Vehicle
Background Information via Ball Interface


The U.S. Air Force Space Test Program’s Standard Interface Vehicle (STP-SIV) project has developed a common spacecraft bus with a standard payload interface to accelerate Department of Defense space technology and ensure future U.S. space superiority.

Space Test Program’s Standard Interface Vehicle (Credit: Ball Aerospace)

Payload teams are able to design payloads and specific experiments to be compatible with the flexible standardized vehicle, resulting in lower spacecraft non-recurring costs and increased spaceflight opportunities. By providing such a vehicle, the Space Test Program can shorten acquisition timelines and decrease spacecraft build costs for its defense industry customers.

Our Role

As the prime contractor on the program, Ball Aerospace is responsible for the overall system including the spacecraft and standard payload interface design and build, payload integration, space vehicle environmental testing, and launch and mission support.

Ball Aerospace’s STP-SIV series of satellites, based on the Ball Configurable Platform (BCP) 100 is ideal for a variety of science, technology development and risk reduction missions.


  • Spacecraft is approximately 24” x 28” x 28” high and weighs less than 110kg
  • Accommodates up to four separate instruments
  • Operates in any low earth orbit from 400 and 850 km altitude
  • Remains easily adaptable for future missions – no design changes necessary for payloads that conform to the standard interface
  • Maintains flexibility to launch on a large variety of vehicles, including the EELV Secondary Payload Adapter

The first STP-SIV spacecraft, STPSat-2 launched Nov. 19, 2010 aboard a Minotaur IV from Kodiak, AK. The satellite is carrying a relay transponder for data collected by ocean buoys and a space phenomenology sensor.

STPSat-3, the second STP-SIV spacecraft was built in only 47 days. Construction of the STPSat-3 platform was completed before the final payloads had been selected, demonstrating the flexibility of the hardware. Payloads for STPSat-3 include:

  •  iMESA-R (Integrated Miniaturized Electrostatic Analyzer Reflight), a U.S. Air Force Academy mission designed to measure plasma densities and energies
  • J-CORE (Joint Component Research), a space phenomenology mission sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) /EO Countermeasures Technology Branch (RYMW) & Army Space and Missile Defense Commance (SMDC)
  • SSU (Strip Sensor Unit), an AFRL Directed Energy (RD) experiment to provide risk reduction through on-orbit testing and operation of a sensor assembly
  • SWATS (Small Wind and Temperature Spectrometer), a Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) mission to provide in-situ measurements of the neutral and plasma environment to characterize the Earth’s ionosphere and thermosphere
  •  TCTE (TSI Calibration Transfer Experiment) , a NASA/NOAA mission to collect high accuracy, high precision measurements of Total Solar Irradiance to monitor changes in solar irradiance incident at the top the Earth’s atmosphere with TCTE instrument provided by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics

STPSat-3 successfully launched Nov. 19, 2013 on a Minotaur I from Wallops Island, VA.