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Arctic broadband satcom programme clears key operational test

The ASBM-1 satellite undergoes vibration testing at Northrop Grumman's satellite manufacturing facility in Dulles, Virginia. (Northrop Grumman)

A Northrop Grumman-built satellite communications (satcom) space vehicle (SV) for the Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission (ASBM) programme has cleared key developmental testing, according to company officials.

ASBM-1, one of two broadband satcom SVs being developed by Northrop Grumman for the joint ASBM programme between the US and Norway, has completed thermal vacuum (TVAC) testing, a 7 November company statement said.

The second ASBM satellite, ASBM-2, is scheduled to undergo similar testing in the coming months. TVAC testing is a programme requirement to determine whether the SV or payload can withstand the harsh operating environment associated with space-based missions across polar orbits. The successful completion of TVAC testing on the broadband satcom SVs will keep the ASBM programme on track for an anticipated 2024 launch date, company officials said.

The two ASBM satellites, once launched, will “deliver broadband communications to the northern polar region for the US Space Force (USSF) and Space Norway”, according to the Northrop Grumman statement. Each SV in the two-satellite ASBM constellation will carry three separate payloads into orbit: a commercial Ka-band satcom payload from Viasat, an X-band payload to support broadband satcom requirements for the Norwegian Armed Forces, and the Enhanced Polar System-Recapitalization (EPS-R) payload, developed by the USSF.

Officials at USSF Space Systems Command, along with their counterparts at Space Norway, completed TVAC testing on the EPS-R Flight One payload in August 2023, according to command officials.

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