Air Force Research Laboratory Recurve Satellite Launched on Virgin Orbit Mission

Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate’s spacecraft Recurve was launched into low Earth orbit July 2, 2022, from the Mojave Air and Space Port, Rutan Field, Mojave, California, on a Virgin Orbit U.S. Space Force Space Test Program mission. (Credit: U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory)

by Jeanne Dailey
Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFRL) — The Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate spaceflight experiment Recurve was launched July 2, 2022, from the Mojave Air and Space Port on the Virgin Orbit space system in California. The launch supported the U.S. Space Force’s STP-S28A mission and carried six additional payloads for the Department of Defense Space Test Program (STP).

Recurve is the latest in several low-cost CubeSats designed, built and operated entirely in house at the Space Vehicles Directorate located on Kirtland AFB.

“AFRL’s CubeSat program is advancing the nation’s space portfolio in developing a hybrid space architecture that encompasses both large and small satellites,” said Kate Yoshino, Recurve program manager. “Recurve will push CubeSat technology forward by demonstrating adaptive radio frequency [or RF] system capability from a low Earth orbit platform.”

The spacecraft will validate a cognitive RF system able to perform in-situ, adaptive decision-making.

“This advanced technology will enable Recurve to assess an inherent positioning, navigation and timing capability under various operating and environmental conditions,” Yoshino said.

In addition, Recurve will evaluate mesh network behavior across multiple nodes in multi-domain applications, bringing information to wherever the warfighter is located.

Mesh networks, sometimes referred to as meshnet and in contrast to star or tree networks, connect directly to as many other nodes as possible, and work together to route data to and from users. The lack of dependency on only one node permits every node to participate in the relay of information, increasing the satellite’s resilience.

“Recurve advances us [toward] a vision of ubiquitous communication networks, to include beyond line of sight, to ensure that our warfighters have the information they need both quickly and reliably,” said Lt. Col. David Johnson, AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate’s Integrated Experiments and Evaluations division chief.

STP-S28A is the first of three missions the U.S. Space Force has contracted with Virgin Orbit. Recurve will be in orbit for up to one year.

About AFRL

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: www.afresearchlab.com.