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Orbital Express Astro

Autonomous Space Transporter and Robotic Orbiter


Designation 30772 / 07006A
Launch date 9 Mar 2007
Country of origin United States
Mission Experimental
Perigee/Apogee 491/499 km
Inclination 46°
Period 94.5 min
Launch vehicle Atlas 5 #9

DARPA owned. Astro is the main satellite, and Nextsat is the capured on.

The 3-month mission including the 2 satellites is worth $300 million

Major test objectives include autonomous operations, including rendezvous from 7 km with a capability to support rendezvous at separation distances up to 1000 km and beyond; onboard relative navigation and guidance systems; a robotic arm system; multiple captures of the Nextsat client spacecraft performed directly and using the robotic arm; sub-meter range autonomous station-keeping; fluid and component transfer; and passive, targetless rendezvous sensor systems.

It experienced orientation difficulties right after launch which could be fixed.

In Apr 2007 the satellite autonomously transferred propellant fuel and a battery from one spacecraft to another, marking industry firsts for the system. In May 2007, it succeeded in autonomous free flight and capture.

End of life

Out of service 21 Jul 2007
Cause Planned end of mission

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Technical data


Prime contractor Boeing
Mass at launch 952 kg
Dry mass  
Solar array  
DC power  
Design lifetime 3 months

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