Small satellite could pay big dividends on battlefield

By Chris Carroll
Stars and Stripes
Published: September 21, 2011
WASHINGTON — It’s small, it’s cheap — for a satellite anyway — and it might keep you from getting shot.
Tactical Microsatellite IV, or TacSat-4, a 10-channel UHF communications satellite developed at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C., is scheduled to blast off next Tuesday from in Kodiak, Alaska.
Weighing in under 1,000 pounds and with a cost of around $150 million to build, launch and operate, the spacecraft is designed to blast down a radio signal powerful enough to free troops in the field from carrying heavy radio equipment and fiddling with antennas.
The need for a clear signal can turn American fighters into targets. Medal of Honor recipient Lt. Michael Murphy, a Navy SEAL, was killed in 2005 trying to set up communications during a firefight.
Others have earned medals the same way, said a representative of a Pentagon program charged with churning out low-cost satellites to solve specific problems.
“This is really the first satellite to give us on-the-move capability … with handheld radios and no need for aiming antennas,” said Valerie Skarupa, head of policy and communications for DOD’s Operationally Responsive Space office.
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