Press Release

Swales-Designed Carrier Launches First XSS-10 Micro-Satellite From Delta II Rocket

By SpaceRef Editor
May 28, 2003
Filed under , ,

Experimental Micro-Satellite Paves Way for More Affordable Space Missions

It’s small. It’s hardly
noticeable. And in actuality, it hitches a ride on a larger rocket. Yet, a
Swales Aerospace-designed secondary launch carrier known as SCONCE, is proving
to be an essential link in demonstrating that autonomous space systems may be
able to operate safely near other orbiting objects in space.

SCONCE, named because of its resemblance to a candlestick or wall mounted
light fixture, successfully carried the first XSS-10 micro-satellite on an Air
Force Delta II rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in late January. Sixteen
hours after launch, the XSS-10 was successfully ejected from the SCONCE,
marking the first in a series of planned micro-satellite experiments. These
new satellites are now being flown under the XSS Micro-Satellite Demonstration
Project managed by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), at Kirtland AFB,

About the size of a Buick transmission and weighting only 62 pounds, the
small XSS-10 spacecraft is “a very significant advancement in space research
and development,” said Thom Davis, XSS-10 program manager at the AFRL.

Swales Aerospace was selected by the AFRL to design, develop, fabricate,
assemble, test and integrate the micro-satellite carrier system with the XSS-
10. The first operational system was delivered to the Air Force in late 2001
after approximately one year of design and development.

“Basically, SCONCE is a straight forward and inexpensive launch carrier
which enables smaller payloads to hitch a ride with larger payloads,”
explained Tom Wilson, CEO of Swales Aerospace. “We view this concept as a
promising new business area for Swales as the industry constantly seeks new
launch capability at realistic cost savings.”

After being ejected from the Delta II, the XSS-10 spent approximately
eight hours flying a series of station keeping maneuvers with the help of a
small television camera. The micro-satellite flew within 100 meters of the
second-stage booster of the Delta II rocket and transmitted images to the
ground from a low-Earth orbital position 800 kilometers above the equator.

According to one industry observer, the successful XSS-10 mission clearly
demonstrated that a small autonomous spacecraft can be operated in close
proximity to other spacecraft in orbit, a fact which holds significant promise
for the satellite industry as a whole.

An employee-owned business, Swales Aerospace provides state-of-the-art
engineering solutions and spacecraft, as well as a broad range of structural
and thermal management systems for the global satellite industry.

The company, headquartered in Beltsville, Md., posted annual revenues of
$157 million during 2002 and employs more than 900 aerospace professionals in
offices in Maryland, Virginia, California, Florida and Texas. Additional
information about the company is available at

SpaceRef staff editor.